In this morning’s conversation the word prickle caught my attention; its explosive consonants have a long usage: from the Old English pricel, an instrument for puncturing sharp points; from the Middle Dutch prikkel; and from the Middle Low Germanic base of prick.

Living languages morph into cognizant meanings, until dropped altogether onto the bone pile of letters. A cursory reading of the Oxford English Dictionary, currently under revision, reveals this pattern.

We see this evolution in the word prickle, both the verb and noun form, around twelve hundred when its figurative sense emerged: the cause of agitation, distress, or trouble. Late fourteenth century heard prickle as inciting or stirring into action. In the early fifteenth century, audiences heard Shakespeare’s use of prick in his comedy As You Like I, combining the vulgarism with the standard meaning of the noun, the act of piercing or puncturing. Other writers of his time did similarly.

Most linguists believe prick has only been used as a direct insult since 1929.

But enough about the history of prickle or prick.

Today’s usage also implies varying degrees of pain: from the behavior of active alcoholics, from canes of raspberry and blackberry bushes, from unwanted advice, from diseases, from high stress, from avoiding emotional truth.

However viewed, this blog invites us to be more careful with our use of language. Say what you mean and mean what you say. It works…