Sunday, April 28, 2024

Extraordinary isn't extra ordinary!

The word "extraordinary" is a fascinating example of how language can evolve, leading to curious terms that might seem illogical at first glance. When we break down "extraordinary" into its components, "extra" and "ordinary," it appears to suggest something that is extremely ordinary. However, the intended meaning of "extraordinary" is actually quite the opposite. It describes something exceptional or remarkable.[1]  

As its own word, “extra” is an intensifier meaning “to a greater extent” or “especially”. But, as a prefix, “extra-“ means “beyond” or “outside”.  

This linguistic oddity raises an interesting question: Why do we say "extra" and "ordinary" together to convey the idea of something exceptional, instead of simply using the word "exceptional" itself?

One possible explanation lies in the evolution of language. English, like many languages, has absorbed and adapted words and phrases from various sources over time. The term "extraordinary" dates back to the 15th century, derived from Latin roots meaning "beyond" (extra) and "ordinary" (ordinarius). In this context, "ordinary" refers to the usual or expected state of affairs.[2]

At the time of its origin, the term "extraordinary" likely served to emphasize the exceptional nature of something, emphasizing its deviation from the norm. Over time, as language evolved, the compound word "extraordinary" became firmly established in the English lexicon, retaining its original meaning despite its seemingly contradictory structure.

The continued use of "extraordinary" to mean exceptional may also be attributed to the richness and nuance of language. Words often carry connotations and shades of meaning that extend beyond their literal definitions. In this case, the juxtaposition of "extra" and "ordinary" in "extraordinary" may evoke a sense of something both beyond and outside the ordinary, emphasizing its exceptional nature in a way that "exceptional" alone might not.

Beyond Extraordinary

While "extraordinary" and "exceptional" are strong choices, our vocabulary offers a wealth of alternatives to describe the extraordinary:

Remarkable: This word emphasizes how something is worthy of notice and comment.

Stupendous: This choice conveys a sense of astonishment and wonder.

Phenomenal: This term implies something extraordinary and almost unbelievable.

Prodigious: This word suggests exceptional skill, talent, or achievement.

Astounding: This emphasizes how something leaves you speechless and amazed.

The best choice depends on the specific context and the nuance you want to convey. So, next time you encounter something that transcends the ordinary, reach for the word that best captures its remarkable nature!


Although "extraordinary" is a common word, it is still often mispronounced. It is not pronounced as "extra" and "ordinary", as that implies something that is very ordinary, as noted previously.  Instead, the "a" is silent.  Weirdly, you also need to break up the "k" and "s" sounds from "x" between two syllables, as in ik·stror·duh·neh·ree, or /ɪkˈstrɔːr.də in international terms, with some minor localized variations.[3] In particular, the "stror" or "strɔ" syllable might be difficult for nonnative English speakers, with its two separate "r" sounds.


According to Google Ngram, it appears that usage of "extraordinary" has been in a steady decline in written works over the past 200 hundred years.[4]  I cannot find any information as to why.  My guess is that we are living in a world that requires increasing precision. "Extraordinary" maybe used in a manner that is not conducive to express such precision. There are plenty of other words which can be used interchangeably.  In a gradient system (such as couple-several-few), could one really say that "remarkable" or "exceptional" are on high or lower tiers from "extraordinary" or each other?  (There have been attempts at order, for example.)

However, I was able to dig up one op-ed that actually claims the word "extraordinary" is in a state of overuse. I find that opinion to be extraordinary.

Friday, April 26, 2024

FREE STARS: Children of Infinity ~ or Child of Star Control II


FREE STARS: Children of Infinity by Pistol Shrimp ~ An epic space Action-RPG, and the long-awaited sequel to The Ur-Quan Masters.

Friday, April 19, 2024

The Case for Words with Diaeresis

Double-Dotting Your ï's and ü's 

Some vowels in English include tiny dots above them. These are diaeresis marks. Think of the words "naïve" or "Noël". While these dotted vowels might seem like a typographical relic, they hold a unique position in English. The diaeresis is the only true diacritical mark used in the language. Diacritical marks are those little additions to letters that alter pronunciation or meaning, like the accent marks in French or the cedilla in "ça."

Diaeresis Disappearance in English

In the past, words with diaeresis were more common. However, their use in English has declined for a few reasons. One factor is simplification. As English spelling evolved, some words adopted alternative spellings without diaeresis. For example, "coöperate" became "cooperate".

Another reason is the influence of American English. American dictionaries generally favor spellings that omit the diaeresis, and this preference has filtered into broader usage.

However, words with diaeresis haven't completely disappeared from English. They are still used in some proper names, like Zoë (pronounced "zo-ee"), and certain loanwords, like naïve or aïoli (a type of sauce). Additionally, some writers and publications choose to use them for added clarity, especially when the pronunciation might be ambiguous.

A Brighter Future for Diaeresis?

The Information Age has made including diaeresis in writing significantly easier than ever before. Gone are the days of struggling with physical limitations of a typewriter.  Modern wordprocessors apps and smartphones offer easy insertion of these characters.

This newfound ease of use could potentially lead to a resurgence of words with diaeresis, particularly in situations where pronunciation clarity is important.

How to Use Diaeresis on Your Devices

Including diaeresis in your digital communication is a breeze! Here's how:

  • PCs:

    • Microsoft Word: The most common way to add diaeresis in MS Word is by using a keyboard shortcut:

      1. Place your cursor where you want to insert the vowel with a diaeresis.
      2. Hold down the Ctrl + Shift keys simultaneously.
      3. While holding those keys down, press the colon ":" key.
      4. Release all three keys (Ctrl, Shift, and colon).
      5. Then, type the desired vowel (e.g., "a" for ä).

    The vowel with the diaeresis will appear in your document. This method works for all vowels that can have a diaeresis (a, e, i, o, and u).

    • WordPerfect: In WordPerfect, you can add diaeresis using a two-step process involving the "Symbols" dialog:

      1. Activate the Symbols function: Press Ctrl + W. This activates the "Symbols" dialog, which allows you to create special characters using key combinations.

      2. Insert the vowel with diaeresis: When Symbols dialog pops up, press the desired vowel key, then add the double quote ("), and press ENTER.

    The vowel with the diaeresis will appear in your document.  This method works for all vowels that can have a diaeresis (a, e, i, o, and u).

  • Wordprocessor alternative: You can also just include several replacement words in your Wordprocessor apps, so when you type without the diaeresis, the spelling correction will automatically correct it to use the diaeresis. (Basic instructions on how to use Autocorrect in MS Word; and QuickCorrect in WordPerfect.)
  • Smartphones and Tablets: The process is even simpler on mobile devices. When the keyboard is shown, simply press and hold on the desired vowel key. A pop-up menu will appear with diacritical options, including the vowel with diaeresis.  Select the vowel with the diaeresis mark, and it is inserted into your text.

Applications on MACs also have methods with a number of keystrokes too.

By familiarizing yourself with these methods, you can incorporate diaeresis vowels seamlessly into your digital communication, adding a touch of precision and clarity to your writing.


Have fun using them!  Some words you may consider their inclusion are coöperate, coördinate, coördinator, coördination, reënter, reïnvigorate, reënactment, reëmburse, reëlect, coöccur, reëquip, naïf, reëntry.  There's many more too!

Thursday, April 18, 2024

The empt in PREEMPT is not the same as EMPTY

Preëmpt: A Word's Etymology is More Than Meets the Eye

The English language is full of words that can mislead us in regards to their origins at first glance. "Preëmpt" (or its more common forms "preempt" or "pre-empt") is a prime example. With its ending resembling the root of "empty," one might assume a connection to the concept of being devoid of something. However, the etymology of preëmpt reveals a far more intriguing story.

The Unexpected Formation of Preëmpt

Unlike most words built with prefixes like "pre-" (meaning "before"), preëmpt doesn't directly descend from the noun "empt." Instead, it's a back-formation. This means the verb preëmpt was actually created from the existing noun "preemption," which has been in use since the 16th Century. Preemption refers to the act of claiming something before someone else can.[1]

Tracing the Roots Back to Latin

So, from where does preemption come? Its origins lie in the Latin verb "preemere." This verb literally translates as "to take beforehand," perfectly aligning with the meaning of preëmpt. The word preemere itself is a combination of two Latin components: "prae-" (meaning "before") and a form of "emere" (meaning "to take").[2]

A False Cognate: Empty vs. Emere

While emere might seem suspiciously similar to the English word "empty," they aren't directly related. Emere likely has roots in the Indo-European language family, predating written records. The English word "empty" comes from a separate branch of this family, giving it a distinct etymology.[3]

Empty: A Different Etymological Branch

While preëmpt leads us down a fascinating path through Latin verbs, the story of empty takes us in a completely different direction. Unlike the back-formation of preëmpt, the word empty has a more straightforward etymology rooted in the history of the English language itself.

Old English Roots

The word empty finds its origins in Old English, which was spoken in England before the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Old English word for empty was "ǣmettig," which can be further traced back to the adjective "ǣmetta" meaning "leisure" or "unoccupied."[4]

The Mystery of the Root

The exact origin of ǣmetta is a bit more obscure. Linguists believe it might be related to the Old English verb "mōtan," meaning "to have to" or "must." However, the precise connection remains unclear.

A Separate Etymological Journey

The key takeaway is that empty has a distinct etymology from preëmpt.  While they share a similar sounding elements, their historical origins lie in different branches of the language tree. Empty sprouted from Old English, whereas preëmpt traces back to Latin verbs.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

What it takes to earn Elite rank in Exobiology

It takes a great many scanned lifeforms to earn Elite rank in Exobiology within Elite Dangerous! Check out this slideshow of start to end in a journey around the Galaxy. This three year project is now complete. I'm now working for Elite V, but I'm only going to take a few selfies with the more interesting lifeforms for now on. Enjoy! Oh, and there is additional content in the video throughout, so be sure to watch to the end (I know they always say that).

Frontier Elite Dangerous Forum
Facebook1, Facebook2