Abso-bloody-lutely

Tmesis.

Notice anything odd about the word tmesis? Seen any other words that start ‘tm‘ lately? Ety’s pretty sure there aren’t any others (suggestions in the comments please).

Tmesis was a Greek noun or gerund, meaning ‘a cutting’. It was related to the verb, temnein (to cut).

From tmesis you get a nice little collection of modern English words, many of which are scientific but still commonly known. So, there’s a hysterectomy, meaning ‘cutting out the womb’ (Gk for womb: hysterikos*), appendectomy and a whole lot of other -ectomies.

Then there’s the atom, which upon its discovery was regarded as the ultimate building block, the only indivisible (or uncuttable) thing in existence. A-tom; non-cut.

Finally – and here’s the one Ety likes most – the word we English speakers get most directly from tmesis is… tmesis.

Tmesis in its modern English form, you’ll be pleased to know, means ‘the cutting of a word and sticking another one in the middle’. Like abso-bloody-lutely.

Bet you didn’t know there was a word for that.

 

*Yes, it’s where we get hysterical, because hysteria was caused by the presence of the womb, obv.

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