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24 Fantastic Frequentative Words And Where They Come From

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Bobble, sniffle, sparkle. Blabber, chatter, flicker. English, along with many other languages, has a delightful class of verbs called frequentatives. Fancy name aside, these words simply show some sort of small or intense repeated action. Chattering, for instance, involves incessant chatting, and sniffling, slight and ongoing sniffing.

English can mark its frequentative verbs with the endings -le and -er. And once you spot the pattern, you’ll start noticing these curious words all over the place. Be careful, though, as English has many more words ending with -le and -er that aren’t frequentatives.

Here’s a list, by no means exhaustive, of 24 of the most unusual and surprising frequentatives hiding right in our everyday speech.

1. TWINKLE

A twinkling star looks like it won’t stop winking and blinking. That’s exactly what its root, the Old English twincan, meant.

2. CRINKLE

Crinkling involves lots of little cringes. Cringe originally meant to shrink or flinch.

3. FIZZLE

Fizzle first meant “to fart silently.” The fizz- comes from fist, an old word for fart, related to feisty.

4. SLITHER

Slither is a creeping and crawling way to slide.

5. STRADDLE

Back in the 16th century, straddle meant “to spread the legs apart,” especially while one was striding.

6. WADDLE

The root of waddle is wade. We can picture a penguin, after wading out of the sea, taking small and short steps as it waddles onto shore.

7. FLUTTER

The root of flutter is fleet. Fleet is an old word meaning float. A baby bird flutters as if to keep itself afloat in the air.

8. SKITTER

If a cat skitters up a tree, it’s doing quite a bit of skiting. Now uncommon, skite means “to run off lightly and quickly.”

9. CLAMBER

And if kids clamber up a wall, they’re climbing up it, hand over foot, with difficulty.

10. JOSTLE

The little pushes and shoves of jostle come from joust—in all of its original horseback collision.

11. TOUSLE

Tousle, which we largely use in tousled hair, is a frequentative of touse, “to handle roughly.” It’s related to the word tease, which originally meant to pull or pluck.

12. MINGLE

The ming in mingle is an Old English word for "mix." It’s also cousin to the -mong in among. Think of mingling, then, as a bustling sort of mixture.

13. SLUMBER

Back in Middle English, to slumber was "to sleep lightly." Its base is an archaic verb slumen, to doze.

14. SWELTER

Sweltering heat makes it oppressively hot. Swelter is the frequentative of the Middle English swelt, to faint—and yet earlier, to die.

15. SWAGGER

Swagger, first recorded in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is likely the frequentative of swag, to sway, especially from side to side. This action was later likened to a boastful gait.

16. LINGER

Linger has lingered in the English language, but the root of this frequentative verb, leng, to length, is no longer around.

17. SWADDLE

To swaddle is to snugly swathe, or wrap up, a baby.

18. NESTLE

We nestle in the sheets like a little critter forming its nest.

19. WRESTLE

Wrestle is a very old frequentative verb. It’s formed from wrest, to twist, turn, or wrench, as wrestlers do on the mats.

20. HAGGLE

When we haggle, it’s as if we’re chopping away at the price. Haggle is a frequentative of the obsolete verb hag, to cut or chop, related to hack.

21. DAZZLE

Something dazzling puts us in a daze.

22. STICKLER

A stickler was originally a moderator or umpire, literally “one who stickles.” The now-rare stickle is a frequentative based on an old verb stight, “to set in order,” as rule-keepers are charged with doing.

23. SWINDLER

A number of English frequentatives are actually borrowed from Dutch and German. Take swindler, from the German Schwindler, “a giddy and extravagant schemer.” In German, Schwindler is the frequentative of swintan, “to languish or disappear” (due to extreme light-headedness and disorientation, apparently).

24. DISGRUNTLED

Finally, we always joke we can be disgruntled but never gruntled. Well, we used to be. The “dissatisfaction” of disgruntled is rooted in gruntle, a little, low grunt. Gruntle was once an active verb in English—and perhaps it could do with some more frequency.

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A Simple Trick For Figuring Out the Day of the Week For Any Given Date
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People typically remember anniversaries in terms of dates and years, not days of the week. If you can’t remember whether you got married on a Saturday or Sunday, or don't know which day of the week you were born on, there’s a simple arithmetic-based math trick to help you figure out sans calendar, according to It's Okay To Be Smart host Joe Hanson.

Mathematician John Conway invented the so-called Doomsday Algorithm to calculate the day of the week for any date in history. It hinges on several sets of rules, including that a handful of certain dates always share the same day of the week, no matter what year it is. (Example: April 4, June 6, August 8, October 10, December 12, and the last day of February all fall on a Wednesday in 2018.) Using this day—called an “anchor day”—among other instructions, you can figure out, step by step, the very day of the week you’re searching for.

Learn more about the Doomsday Algorithm in the video below (and if it’s still stumping you, check out It’s OK to Be Smart’s handy cheat sheet here).

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There May Be an Ancient Reason Why Your Dog Eats Poop
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Dogs aren't known for their picky taste in food, but some pups go beyond the normal trash hunting and start rooting around in poop, whether it be their own or a friend's. Just why dogs exhibit this behavior is a scientific mystery. Only some dogs do it, and researchers aren't quite sure where the impulse comes from. But if your dog is a poop eater, it's nearly impossible to steer them away from their favorite feces.

A new study in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, spotted by The Washington Post, presents a new theory for what scientists call "canine conspecific coprophagy," or dogs eating dog poop.

In online surveys about domestic dogs' poop-eating habits completed by thousands of pet owners, the researchers found no link between eating poop and a dog's sex, house training, compulsive behavior, or the style of mothering they received as puppies. However, they did find one common link between the poop eaters. Most tended to eat only poop that was less than two days old. According to their data, 85 percent of poop-eaters only go for the fresh stuff.

That timeline is important because it tracks with the lifespan of parasites. And this led the researchers to the following hypothesis: that eating poop is a holdover behavior from domestic dogs' ancestors, who may have had a decent reason to tuck into their friends' poop.

Since their poop has a high chance of containing intestinal parasites, wolves poop far from their dens. But if a sick wolf doesn't quite make it out of the den in time, they might do their business too close to home. A healthier wolf might eat this poop, but the parasite eggs wouldn't have hatched within the first day or two of the feces being dropped. Thus, the healthy wolf would carry the risk of infection away from the den, depositing the eggs they had consumed away in their own, subsequent bowel movements at an appropriate distance before the eggs had the chance to hatch into larvae and transmit the parasite to the pack.

Domestic dogs may just be enacting this behavior instinctively—only for them, there isn't as much danger of them picking up a parasite at home. However, the theory isn't foolproof. The surveys also found that so-called "greedy eaters" were more likely to eat feces than dogs who aren't quite so intense about food. So yes, it could still be about a poop-loving palate.

But really, it's much more pleasant to think about the behavior as a parasite-protection measure than our best pals foraging for a delicious fecal snack. 

[h/t The Washington Post]

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