Essay about Understanding the Roots of the Word Ruthless

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In the popular children’s television show Phineas and Ferb, Dr. Doofenshmirtz, the primary antagonist declares that he is “ruthless. [He] has no ruths” (19:40). His declaration articulates an interesting linguistic idiosyncrasy; ruthless currently only operate in various forms of itself (i.e. “ruthlessness,” “ruthlessly). As many words do, this facet of the word ruthless illuminates various types of change in the English language over time. To be completely understood, the word “ruthless” must be looked at, and then it must be examined in its constituent parts—“ruth-“ and “-less.” I will also look at the name Ruth as a variant on the root word “ruth.” This word demonstrates various aspects of compounding and the movement of Christianity…show more content…
3 reo(w)ðe, reoþe; 3 reouþe, -ðe, -de, 4-5 reouþ, -th; . 2-5 rouþe, 4-5 routhe, 5, 7 routh (5 rought); 2 rowðe, 4-5 rowthe, 5 rowith; 4 rau-, rawþe, 4-5 raw-, 5 rauthe, roth; . 4-5 ruþe, 4-6 ruthe; 4 ruþ, 5- ruth, 6-7 rueth. [Early ME; reuðe, rewðe, etc., f. rewen rue v.1 Cf. OE. hreow rue sb.1, and for the ending, ONor. hryggð. ] (“ruth”). As seen above, the word “ruth” has undergone minimal phonological variations which include minor vowel shifts and the dropping of an aspirated consonant.. As this entry also suggests, the spellings/variations of “rewen” and “hreow” suggest a close relationship to the word “rue,” which means “Sorrow, distress; repentance; regret” or “Pity [and] compassion.” “Rue,” and its variants, first appears in texts with religious connotations (Aelfred’s “Preface” to his translation of Gregory’s Pastoral Care) and Beowulf . Given the context of the first uses of the word “ruth” and “rue,” another possible origin for the word “ruth” in the English language could stem from a biblical and Hebrew word. According to Wilkinson, the Hebrew woman’s name “Ruth” is a contraction of the word “reuth” (qtd. Zondervan). The name “Ruth” is generally associated with companionship and virtuousness. Although in meaning it seems somewhat removed from the sense of “ruth” meaning
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