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