This is a very special SWI investigation. It grew from questions about <perspicuous> that Grade 2 student Jake asked me about (from his Big Nate book) and Grade 4 students from Matt (Real Spellers) Berman's class trying to analyze <despicable>. Along the way we run into words like <species>, <special> and most surpisingly to me <spice>! Because we could not figure out how <spice> linked to all these words, I invited Douglas Harper -- the author of Etymonline -- to help me make sense of the trails that link these words over time. 

I hope you enjoy hearing what Douglas had to share as much as I did!

  • This is a wonderful video. Several things struck me about this conversation. I loved understanding that when a definition comes at the beginning of an entry in etymonline, appearing before the date of first attestation, then it's been a consistent definition throughout the history of the word, and hasn't shifted much. I always wondered about that. I also found the mention of vowel shifting really interesting. The Latin Spellinar was so helpful in making sense of that vowel shifting due to compounding. Thanks to Doug for his time and participation, and as always, to you, Pete.

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  • Great trails of knowledge in this video! I also liked hearing Doug's explanations of how to read the entries in etymonline.com. I like the oval idea you've been using to signify the historical connections to roots and the metaphor of a "family reunion picnic" (was mentioned in video) -- that made it more concrete for me. I always learn many things from these Fireside Chats! Thanks for taking the time to make them, they are invaluable! Incidentally, I used the content of this video (relationship between 'spice' and 'despicable') to pique one of my own high school age kid's interest -- she was wowed! ...and consequently, more curious than ever about words & vocabulary.

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