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‘Swimming’ an action where the breath and what you do with it is critical. This image and instruction from the Art of Swimming‘ by Thevenenot is published in Paris as ‘L’Art de Nager’ in 1696, a French translation of the English (but written in Latin in 1587) book by Sir Everard Digby:  ‘This (the image above) is easily performed in the manner following. You must keep your Breast advancing forward, your Neck upright on the water, both your Hands fast behind your Head, or on your Back, while in the mean time your Legs and Thighs push you forward by the same motions you make when you Swim (as at other times) on your Belly. This way of Swimming may be useful, in case any accident, as the Cramp, &c. should happen to your Arms, or if you were forced on occasion to Swim with your Hands tyed behind you, on in case you were a Prisoner, and your Life or Liberty depended on it.’ Go to BibliOdyssey for more images, instruction and information about this vital activity!

Manya suggested in a flash of inspiration that every group should take a photo of their word tree as well as record their explanation in order to help everyone prepare for the final assessment. Every student has found the ‘trees’ helpful in terms of understanding the relationship between the roots and the related base elements in PDE. Again these recordings show me where students are in their understanding:

  • How embedded is the linguistic terminology?
  • Do students understand the difference between synchronic and diachronic etymology – possibly not these terms but can they locate the root in their research and link this to present day English?
  • Can they see the connections from the root to the base element in the word under investigation?
  • Can they identify other related bases?

The tree recordings will also show me simple procedures such as whether students spell out the base element rather than pronounce it. This may seem ‘picky’ but it is a key point in that a base element is not necessarily a word and as such should not be pronounced. Pronunciation can change as we see with sign, signal, assignment despite all having the same free base element <sign> and  Latin root signum to mark, to stamp. It is key for the students to remember that it is meaning and structure first and foremost. So as students complete their recording (their study guide based on their research) we will post. Here is the tree that began with word ‘inspiration’.

The work of the spirare group was interesting. They began by looking at inspiration and from there found many related words. They could all see the underlying connection to breath and breathing.  As the students gathered related words, we were puzzled by how to represent expire. Clearly it came from L. spirare but could not see why the ‘s’ disappeared.

I was lucky enough to read a post from Dan Allen where student Lucas was facing this problem of a disappearing ‘s’ with the word exist (and who said teachers need to know everything first?) Read Learning Never to Doubt Lucas. I shared our puzzlement over expire and the absent ‘s’ and in three way skype moment with Old Grouch in France , me in Malaysia and Dan and Lucas in Switzerland, we came to the conclusion that ‘ex-‘ followed by a base with an initial ‘s’ would lose that ‘s’ . Therefore, the base element <spire> has an allomorph <pire> appearing only when preceded by the ‘ex-’ prefix. This too is the case in the word exist from the Latin root ‘sistere’ to stand when preceeded by ‘ex-’ , the allomorph <ist> is used. In both cases the /s/ is present or retained by the grapheme <x> in the two phones (sounds) one letter , one phoneme /ks/ represented here by the letter <x>  [ɪkˈspaɪ(ə)r] . Exciting to reach this conclusion together. Very interesting then to  watch the students’ recent recording where I noticed how they had written the Proto Indo European root with a bracket around the ‘s ‘.. *(s)peis. 

We have seen examples of both ‘inspiration’ and ‘conspiracy’ in all units: the plotting of Rhea and sons to hide Zeus; Penelope’s conspiracy to outwit the suitors – a conspiracy of weft and warp to hold onto Ithaca in Odysseus’s absence; the theories of blood libel through the centuries- the shocking conspiring to represent Jews as the root of evil from the 12th century onwards whereby Jews were vilified as ritualistic child killers – a  hatred born out of false stereotypes and myth as the title of Goldstein’s book A Convenient Hatred, indicates.( Click here to view The Power of a Lie) Conspiracies too were seen during the Weimar republic where  supposedly the Jews colluded with Soviet Communists in attempting world domination and even more shocking, the conspiracy of silence that led to bystander behavior and the death of countless Jews. This week in humanities we see the knight conspiracy against Becket. Was King Henry the second behind this plot to murder in the cathedral? At the same time we see inspiration in all areas of the curriculum.

Stan Carey comments on the plethora of phrases revolving around breathing: ‘Take my breath away’, ‘don’t breathe a word’, ‘breath of fresh air’, ‘breathe down someone’s neck’. Read more here:Inspiring Etymology. 

And to move on to linking the idea of ‘breathing’ and ‘conspiracy’ to hyper-vigilance or stalking behavior, listen to none other than Police, where both breathing and conspiring and quite possibly a lot of perspiring occurs:

Every breath you take

Every move you make

Every bond you break

Every step you take I’ll be watching you (Police, 1985).

If you have now, like I did, become obsessed with finding out how many songs there are involving breath or breathing, then check these links out or read here: Guardian: Readers Recommend Breathing Songs

 Corrs: Breathless

 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds : Breathless

Hollie’s Version: The Air That I Breathe

And what about sighing? Surely this involves ‘breath’ and an’expiration’, so of course the inspirational version of Shakespeare’s Much ado About Nothing , directed by Kenneth Branagh and ‘Sigh no more ladies , sigh no more , Men are deceivers ever…’

And Dear Readers, Sigh no more… inspiration is fading!