• To Be- Or Not To Be-?

At the New Year, a member of the family tried to get a word past the rest of us in Scrabble.  His logic for ‘bedot’ was inescapable (he said that it’s what you do when you put dots all over something, like a wall).  But we said that it didn’t exist.  And it doesn’t.  The Shorter OED does have ‘bedote’, though that means something else.  Then yesterday I tweeted an updated definition of a related word, which does exist:

to bespot  to do Damien Hirst’s work for him

My computer keeps trying to change ‘bespot’ to ‘besot’ … to make sottish, dull or stupid.  No comment.

All this got me thinking about ‘be-‘ words and as a result I’ve just spent a bewitching half an hour over an early lunch, scouring my Chambers dictionary.  I found some 200 ‘be-‘ words, around 1/3 of which are more or less in current usage, such as: becalmed, befall, befit, begin, behave, behead, belabour, beleaguered, belong, bemuse, bequeath, beseech, besmirch, bespoke, betide, between, betwixt.

The ‘be-‘ varies quite a bit in significance, sometimes reinforcing the meaning of the stem word, sometimes contradicting it (‘behead’).  Sometimes the stem word itself has no separate currency:  ‘queath’ no longer exists, but apparently it came from the same stem as ‘quoth’.  By return, though, ‘bequoth’ doesn’t exist either, although I rather like the sound of it.  Ah, language!

The greatest fun was coming across words new to me.  Here are ten of my favourites, which I might just try to use:

beblubbered  disfigured by weeping
to beduck  to plunge under water
to bedung  to befoul with manure
to begunk  to trick, befool, jape
to bekiss  to cover with kisses
to bemad  to madden
to beprose  to discuss in prose and tediously
to besing  to celebrate in song
to bespeed  to help on
to bethwack  to thrash soundly

How about promoting some new ‘be-‘ words?  I think I ought to start with ‘bedot’.  Any other suggestions?


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