A Compositor Put All This Together

It’s time for leaf-raking in Northeast Ohio, or for “leaving the leaves,” if you’re ecologically inclined. Leaving the leaves brings thoughts of composting, which is a good use for them. And composting brings to mind its verbal cousins compose, composite, component, and compote.

The mother of this word family is the Latin ponere, which means “to put.” The Latin preposition cum, meaning “together with,” has transposed* into com-, a common English prefix. If you compose something, you put it together. A composer puts notes, or music, together. The “s” in composer and these related words comes from the ponere’s participle, positus. (You’re probably thinking, Composition!)

A composite wood is a bunch of woods smushed together. The various components have been composed! A compote, a dish of stewed fruits, is a bunch of fruits smushed together, which also came to mean the dish that holds them. And compost is decaying organic matter smushed together. Usually compost is not just leaves or food scraps or grass clippings. It can be all three and more! Compost is a composite.

This word family is very exciting, I know, but try to keep it together. I mean, keep your composure!

*Transpose = put + across

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4 Responses to A Compositor Put All This Together

  1. Kathy says:

    Quite the metaphor!

  2. Kathy says:

    Okay, not smushed, but smushy. How’s that?

  3. Jewel Moulthrop says:

    I take exception to the use of “smushed” to describe fruit compote. The various fruits in a compote are cooked in the same pot and served in the same dish, but they remain individual and identifiable, and not mashed, mushed or smushed together. Just sayin’ . .

  4. Ros Gauchat says:

    Hallelujah for compost…and when it is all put together, it breaks down the individual parts and becomes transformed

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