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I've been learning about word roots in an effort to build vocabulary. It's slow going, but fun. 
A lot of words turn out of contain smaller units of meaning that relate to the word's overall
meaning. Roots, they are called. For instance, mal=bad, which suggests that malcontent and
malicious are both words about badness. And in this case, this prognostication is correct -
both are about negativeness. Of course, English is quite good at making things irregular. For
instance, many words are named after the person who inspired the word - boycott, lynch,
diesel, all examples derived from a Mr. somebody of the same name. Now, I understand, I
sympathize. Epynoms are a decentralized, unregulated way to keep a language fresh. Mostly,
however, I'd like the word Alan, or Robinson coined after me, and I cannot
begrudge this rather organic way to grow a language. But it sure is a pain when one's goal is
to learn new words ( a very important goal when one is getting ready for the GRE).

2001 Alan Robinson  (arobinson@hampshire.edu)