Think about the word, “relative.” Are you thinking about a cousin or has the level of humidity in the air captured your attention? Or, perhaps you’re thinking of the degree of connectedness between multiple concepts. Now, think about “aspic.” Does the word conjure a gelatinous tomato concoction? Or does it suggest to you an environment filled with snakes? If the word caused you to see, in your mind’s eye, a ball of writhing snakes, I’ll forgive you for the erroneous association of the word with the image. There’s a certain amount of illogic in language. It’s evidence of the imperfection of the species of which you and I are a part. If one is a misanthrope, one can be described as misanthropic. It follows, then, that a bundle of asps are aspic. But it doesn’t. Not really. Yet consider that an actor has a meteoric rise, like a meteor (though meteors tend to fall, don’t they?). And linguists speak of matters linguistic. So, what does this have to do with relatives? I’ve asked myself that question a hundred times and answered it thrice, with different replies.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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