All about writing

Words are fascinating ... Put them together in the right way, and we can communicate with people in other places and other times. Make a mess of it and ...

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Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Friday, October 07, 2005


I can remember being very confused in my first year Latin class, when our teacher kept talking about Caesar, "razing a Gallic tribe's town to the ground."

"Silly woman," I thought, "you can't 'raise' something to the ground!"

But of course, you can certainly "raze" it.

I think it's part of the quirky charm of English that we have two words that sound the same but mean exactly the opposite, don't you?

Raze means 'to tear down so as to make flat with the ground,' and it comes from the Latin radere, rasus (to scrape, shave) which is related to another Latin word rodere (to gnaw) from which we get our loveable rodent!

Raise, on the other hand, means 'to move to a higher position; elevate; to increase in intensity, degree, strength, or pitch' (among many other meanings). It comes not from Latin, but from the Old Norse word reisa (to raise).