Monday, January 25, 2016

Mundane Monday: KILL

For a mundane word, kill actually packs in a lot of drama. First, there's the obvious meaning: to cause the death of someone or something. Can't get much more dramatic than that.

But then there are the many other meanings that draw from this primary one. For example, you can "kill" a piece of legislation, a running engine, a newspaper story, or a bottle of liquor.

Then there is the dramatic hyperboles -- a standup comedian "kills" when he does really well. The world of online marketing is full of advertisements for programs, software, and secret formulas that let you "kill it" in internet sales.

On the home front, a parent may tell a whining child, "You're killing me!" -- and days later the child tells the parent the same thing when she is told to take a bath. Of course, neither person literally thinks that they are going to die from whining or bathing.

Kill has a specific meaning in sports as well. In tennis or volleyball (or, I think, pretty much any sport that involves hitting a ball (or other object like a birdie) back and forth) a "kill" is when one player hits the ball (or other object) so hard that the opponent has no chance of returning it.

As a noun, "kill" can be both single and plural: a single deer or shot-down plane is a "kill", but so is the total number of (usually) animals hunted or destroyed by pollution - a fish kill, the overall deer kill in a hunting season.

Kill comes from Middle English kullen or killen, which in turn comes from Old English cyllan. Cyllan, in turn, comes from the older word cwellan, which also gives us the English word "quell". Interestingly, quell takes us right back to the meanings of kill that imply stopping -- killing legislation or an engine. Language is so cool!

Even cooler, there is an entirely different and unrelated meaning for kill as a noun -- a stream or inlet, which comes from the Dutch word kil, which also means inlet. You see it most often as part of place names in the areas of the northeastern United States where the Dutch settled--Peekskill, Catskill, Schuykill. These names all have to do with the geography and nothing at all to do with death and violence.

As a Scrabble word (I'm just going to stop saying "Scrabble or Words With Friends" all the time, okay? Just assume I mean both when I say Scrabble) KILL isn't all that exciting. It does have the usual set of extensions like KILLS, KILLER, KILLING, etc. There is even the adjective KILLABLE.

But when you dig into the other unrelated words that begin with KILL, you find some useful "secret weapon" words to have in your game vocabulary, such as:
  • KILLDEE or
  • KILLDEER (a type of bird)
  • KILLICK or
  • KILLOCK (a small anchor)
  • KILLIE (a type of fish)
not to mention the delightful KILLJOY which is a 7-letter word (bingo!) and which can really rack up the points if played across high-scoring board squares, as it includes both a 10-point and 5-point letter.

Any of these lesser known extensions can be added to an opponent's use of KILL; moreover "kil" or "kill" can be added to the front of commonly played words like DEE, DEER, LICK, LOCK, LIE, and JOY.

Truly a killer word to have in your arsenal!

No comments:

Post a Comment