Saturday, 15 May 2010
The curious thing is that because of that slight shift you can use the word pasteurised without ever noticing that it must be named after the famous chemist. You see it the second you consider the word, but how often do any of us consider anything? I feel certain I don't. I am a man of wild and imponderable action. Thoughts are for losers.
Put the stress back on the middle syllable of excellent, and you can see how it relates to excel and repel and repellent. Not that that should come as a cataclysmic surprise, merely that the connection was loitering in a dusky corner. By Shakespeare's time excellent had already become a cretic. But it still meant exceeding, rather than praiseworthy as we can tell from Queen Margaret's ever-so-slightly-catty remark to Elizabeth of York:
From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
That reigns in galled eyes of weeping souls,