I've got a couple of other blogs going, and in a perfect world, I would update one of them before I confess even more ignorance than people already know me to have. But the truth is that I would like the misspelled word of my last blog not to be the one to greet me every time I open the page, which I do a lot--not because I am so dazzled by my own writing, but because it's basically the way I see if anything new has popped up on some of the other blogs I follow.
Besides, recognition of ignorance comes on its own timetable, and not mine. In an ideal world--again--I would be so far from ignorant that I would only feel the need to post here about once a year.
Unfortunately, that's not the case.
I was having a conversation with my sister in which she was describing a situation of being overwhelmed or buried or burdened by something, and she asked me if 'consumed' was the word she was looking for. I said, "Maybe 'subsumed'?" So she asked, "Maybe--what does 'subsumed' mean, exactly?" And I said, "Uh..."
Yeah--I knew right away that a blog post was coming on.
Okay, I could probably use 'subsume' semi-accurately in a sentence--or at least interpret it semi-accurately in a sentence. The sub- prefix makes it easy to fake it. There's an 'under' aspect to it. I would probably use it to mean 'buried within', 'overwhelmed' or 'taken over'--as in, "his personality was subsumed in his father's overbearing one". We'll see shortly if I'm right about that. Meanwhile, there is also a more primary ignorance to be dealt with.
It occurred to me that there are a lot of '-sume' words--consume, subsume, resume, presume--and though with the rest I can more accurately define them, I still don't know what that '-sume' is all about. It has got to be some sort of very foundational root, like 'to be' or 'to know', but I can't find the common element. With, under, again, before--all attached to this suffix. So how does it work to make them say what they do?
Time to find out...
Okay--I was probably offering the word inaccurately to my sister, though it might have just squeaked by, depending on what we were actually saying. Probably not, though. "Subsume" means to include, or classify or incorporate something into--or under--a larger group or general principal.
I didn't come close to getting the '-sume' right, either. It comes from the Latin sumere, which means 'to take', among other things. I have to admit that at first, this didn't make things much clearer. But reading through the definitions, I was surprised to see how many idioms using 'to take' have passed into our present day language. So we can make these sort of rough matches: subsume--to take under. Consume--to take in. Resume--to take up again. Presume--to take for granted--or to take ahead of time.
Who knew that 'taking' was so fundamental to our language, and therefore our nature? Oh, sure--you all did. Easy to say that now.