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English has three prefixes meaning half:
demi-, hemi-, and semi-.
Do we need three prefixes with the same meaning? No. But English is greedy like that … just grabbing words from anywhere and everywhere to add to the glorified, hard to learn, hard to spell, but fantastically FUN and USEFUL language it is.
demi- … demigod (a half god, not quite a god) … came from Latin
hemi- … hemisphere (a half sphere) … came from Greek
semi- … semicircle (a half circle) … came from French
Put together, you get one of my all-time favorite words:
hemi-demi-semiquaver (what Brits call a sixty-fourth note).
What fun writing a blog can be! When I googled to double-check my facts, I stumbled on some new words for my all-time favorite list:
The Brits call a double whole note a breve and a single whole note a demibreve.
I can’t help it … these just make me think of “boxers or” and the enormous quantities of giggling that must break out whenever the junior choir master gives them any manner of instruction about their breves and semibreves.
Never mind junior. I once took down an entire college history lecture because the professor said something about what some historical legal genius had said in his briefs and … I couldn’t help it. I just flashed on this really famous, important guy wearing nothing but tighty-whiteys and started to giggle.
You know how, if one person is giggling, it’ll get the next person going until, pretty soon, the whole room is whispering and snickering?
So finally the prof asks, “What did I say that was so funny?” Which just made me laugh even harder.
He totally deserved it. He’d come into class and say something totally random that would only be funny to people who had watched his favorite show (Monty Python). Then he’d watch who laughed.
Anyway, back to the Brits wonderfully absurd music words.
The half note is a minim, the quarter note is a crotchet (snort) and the eighth is a quaver. From there, they go to sixteenth (semiquaver), thirty-second (demisemiquaver), and still my favorite, just because it’s so fun to say, sixty-fourth (hemidemisemiquaver).
Another factoid I just learned: there is actually a 128th note. I did not know this. The Brits have TWO words for this note that is so short, it’s hardly a sound at all. And both of them are longer than the note.
Quasihemidemisemiquaver and semihemidemisemiquaver.
I dare you to say that second one three times fast. Ha! I’m beginning to see why English is such a screwy (and fascinating) language. The Brits invented it.
How did I get on to this?
I was trying to remember (or find out) the something-centennial word for 50 years.
A friend is celebrating the SEMI-CENTENNIAL anniversary of taking his permanent vows into the Holy Cross brotherhood and I wanted to congratulate him.
The 50th anniversary is also called the Quinquagenary or Golden Jubilee.
I’m having another ah ha moment about why that first one isn’t in common use. Criminetly, it’s hard to say!
I think I’ll use “Golden Jubilee” for his congratulations message. It sounds much more celebratory than “Semi-centennial.”
Have I ever mentioned how much I love words?
P.S., quasi- (resembling in some degree) came from Latin.
Filed under Funny Stuff