The basic English word do seems so direct at first glance. On the surface, it connotes action—pure and simple. In practice, though, our daily uses of the verb do are not always so clear and concrete. It’s hard to imagine, for example, what kind of concrete action the leprechauns might be taking in the sentence “Leprechauns do not exist”. This article investigates the origin and function of this “dummy do” verb.
At first glance, the words adder, apron, newt and nickname don’t seem to have much in common. Etymologically speaking, though, these words are bound together by a curious linguistic process called metanalysis. This month’s Word Stories shine a spotlight on some common words created by this effect, in which the mistake becomes the rule.