Etymology Notes: "Blessed"

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Sun Dec 30 22:41:17 UTC 2001

Maybe "she" used two syllables, but Dan Rather (predictably) used just one
when he read the same lines.

At 03:54 PM 12/30/01 -0600, you wrote:
>Etymology Notes: "Blessed"
>Carl Jeffrey Weber
>The expression "blessed terrorism" came up in the news regarding Bin Laden's
>third videotape. The newscaster used the two-syllable form of the "blessed"
>word and put the main accent on TER-. "Bles-sed TER-or-is'm." If the accent
>is: "BLES-sed terroris'm," or "BLES-sed TERroris'm" makes a difference. It
>came off natural the way she said it. (It's the way you say "Blessed Virgin"
>that makes it mean blest or blessed or damned.)
>Lisa Wittenberg wrote
><<<Blessed as a verb is /blEst/
>Blessed as an adjective is /blEs ed/
>Are there other examples of this process?
>Perhaps, "blest" is OE spelling, but the pronunciation would persist with
>the regular preterit spelling. Can anyone comment on the adjective
>pronunciation? Is it an emphatic usage started in the church (Blessed
>Virgin) that has become accepted? or is there another story here? >>>
>[Douglas Wilson points out that the adjective is EITHER way.]
>Here are other examples of this process, with the number of syllables
>"The spilt milk."   vs    "The spilled milk" (spilled is one syllable).
>"Spilt" forefronts the fact of  having been spilled, the result continuing;
>"Spilled" forefronts the continuing result, the act assumed and in the
>Another example of two adjectival uses made from the same past participle,
>with no need to add a syllable: spelt/spelled (spelled is one syllable). "A
>properly spelt word."  vs  "A properly spelled word."
>The voiced consonant "l" at the ends of "spill" and "spell" allows the
>addition of either preterit marker ("-t" or "-d") to make the distinction in
>meaning here pointed out. In the following, notice the (voiced) nasal giving
>the same phenomenon with "burnt" and "burned" -- no extra syllable needed.
>One meaning emphasized the act, the other the continuing result.
>"Blest" (one syllable) forefronts the fact of the act (of having been
>blessed), the result of the act continuing.
>"Bless-ed" (two syllables), forefronts the continuing result, the act
>assumed (and in the background, as having had occurred). Obviously, the way
>you say the phrase makes it swearing in a bad sense or swearing in a good
>sense. (Swear like a sailor on his way to hell or a penitent sinner at the
>gates of St. Peter.).
>The unvoiced ending of "bless", the word under discussion, requires the
>addition of another syllable for what Doug called the "stretched version".
>The same with "curst" and "curs-ed". Two syllables.
>Another, "proved/proven", is on a Norman root (although "prooft" is not
>historically uncommon). Another, from the Roman era of loan words into
>Britanniae before English officially started, "spent" and "expended".
>Others are the "gilt lily" and "the gild (or gilded) lily"; "I beg ya'
>darlin', on my bent knee... on bended knee."
>There seem to be a limited number of phonemic possibilities in basic Old
>English: (-lt and -ld), (-st and -sed), (-nt and -nd). The distiction in
>meaning is apparent between "stripe shirt" (with a lost! preterit marker)
>and "strip-ped bass". One has perfective and the other durative qualities.
>What is this phenomenon called?

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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