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This is a Wednesday’s Wonderful Words post, in which I chose a word, well-know or otherwise, and discuss why I think it’s so wonderful.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

The results of the poll deciding this week’s Wonderful Word were a tie.

Happy got one vote, “Other” (ideas including hobnob) got two, and hoodwink and hush tied at six votes each.

Well, gentlewomen and men of the blogosphere, it clearly states in the constituency that, in the case of a tie, the blogger who writes on the word gets the casting vote.

And, well, I much prefer hush.

Without further ado; I give you:

Hush

/hʌʃ/

interjection

1. Used as a command to be silent or quiet.

2. To soothe or be soothed

verb (used without object)

3. To become or be silent or quiet: They hushed as the judge walked in.

verb (used with object)

4. To make silent; silence.

5. To suppress mention of; keep concealed (often followed by up): They hushed up the scandal.

6. To calm, quiet, or allay: to hush someone’s fears.

7. To run water over the ground to erode (surface soil), revealing the underlying strata and any valuable minerals present

8. To wash (an ore) by removing particles of earth with rushing water

Noun

9. Silence or quiet, especially after noise.

10. Phonetics . either of the sibilant sounds (sh) and (zh).

11. A gush of water, esp when artificially produced

12. Archaic. A silence or quiet moment.

Adjective

13. Archaic. silent; quiet.

Etymology:

1546, variant of M.E. huisht (c.1380), probably of imitative origin, with terminal -t lost probably by being mistaken for a pt. suffix.

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Never have I seen such a list of meanings. Who knew hush was anything vaguely to do with rocks?

Let me tell you why I chose hush over hoodwink.

When I was in high school, we did close-reading passages in English. This would involve being given an article and a set of questions about the language used in the article. I quite enjoyed them.

For my Higher English exam (for non-Scottish people, your A-Level or equivalent, around the age of 17), we were given an article about libraries and their importance in society.

I could not have been given a better article.

I can’t remember the exact content of the article, nor what newspaper it was taken from, but one phrase stuck out for me.

(Paraphrasing a lot here): “One of the best things about old libraries is the silence; it’s not quite a silence, more of a cathedral-quiet hush, found in only a few places”.

The difference between a silence and a hush is the reverent aspect of a hush, which is only found in churches, with high roofs and whispers, and libraries.

I, along with the author, would say that the atmosphere in libraries, the hush you find nearly nowhere else, is one of my favourite things about them.

That’s hush being used as a noun.

Used as a verb, it’s also soothing, with onomatopoeic [h] and [ʃ] in there.

What I find interesting about the etymology of hush is the t on the end.

I had a very unpleasant teacher when I was 5, called Mrs Hutchison. She seemed to think shouting was the only way to communicate. She used to say “shhhhhhht” all the time, and the t on the end made it so much more aggressive!

I always assumed that people who added a t onto “shhh” were doing so for the added aggression.

Of course, she probably was doing this, but it turns out her doing so was not unfounded – the origins of hush show us this.

On top of all the above, and a few new meanings under our belt, hush is used in phonetics – a field of linguistics.

These combine to made it one of the best words ever.

As last week; if you want to make a suggestion, feel free. It must begin with I and be a known-of word, and something that’s interesting to talk about!

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