Monday, 1 August 2011

August August

Welcome, dear reader, to August, the most august month of the year. The month is stressed on the first syllable and the adjective, meaning grand, is stressed on the second. But they both derive from exactly the same place.

Gaius Octavius Thurinus was posthumously adopted by Gaius Julius Caesar and changed his name to that of his new dead dad. Then, in 27 BC, the Roman Senate awarded him the honorific name Augustus, meaning venerable - something akin to your majesty. That's the word from which we get the word august, meaning grand.

So Gaius Octavius Thurinus ended up being called Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus. Then in 8 B.C. the Roman decided to rename the month Sextilis in his honour. And that's where we get the month of August.

For some reason the month is a trochee - August - and the adjective is an iamb - august. Another word from the same root is augment which is also stressed on the second syllable.

The point about all these stressed syllables is that you can arrange them in patterns, for example stressed and soft syllables alternating. So, in iambic pentameters:

Augustus's augustness was augmented
The day the month of August was invented.

I am monarch of when I survey
My right there is none to dispute
To September's first day from July
You will find that my name is the root.

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