The English diminutive -ling comes from the Proto-Germanic nominal suffix -lingaz. It mostly attaches to nouns and makes them seem younger, smaller, or weaker, as in fledgling or underling. A gosling is a young goose. A starveling is a creature that is starving. The one you call darling is dear to you.

Now that you know this, I know what you want to ask:

“What’s a berk?”

Well, if you’re American or Australian and look up that word on Urban Dictionary, you’ll probably shake your head at the, well, foolish choice of domain name for this blog. But if you’re like the Brits I met while traveling in Laos a few months ago who tried to teach me Cockney rhyming slang, you’ll probably be ‘avin a Hat an’ Scarf.

The English gerund is formed by adding -ing to a verb, transforming them into nouns. In cases where a verb ends in the letter e, the fifth glyph is dropp’d, as in wheeze to wheezing or chortle to chortling.

Now that you know this, I know what you want to ask:

“How does one berkle?”

This one, unfortunately, is not one that I can find in any dictionary. It does, however, seem to be an English surname, possibly related to the German surname Berkling. And that brings us right back to…

I’m starting a new blog! It’s called Berkling, and I plan to write about graduate school life, linguistics, and anything else that catches my fancy. Welcome!


Word of the Day: darkle, a back-formation from darkling that means “to become dark, clouded, or gloomy.” The autumnal equinox has passed, and the sky darkles earlier and earlier every day.


About Andrew C.

I'm a grad student at UC Berkeley.
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2 Responses to Meanings

  1. Hmm, in these cases morpheme boundaries influence pronunciation for me, at least in careful speech. If “darkling” were derived from “darkle” (darkle-ing) I’d pronounce it with three syllables (in citation form), like “sparkling,” but my first instinct was to read it as a noun (dark-ling), in which case it’s only two syllables. I think it first struck me as a noun because of the Darkling, the villain in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, and because of the darkings (which I’d remembered as “darklings,” but I was wrong) in Tamora Pierce’s Immortals Quartet. Anyway, I like the morpheme “-ling”! In Translation Workshop, I translated the title of Anatole Le Braz’s short story “Le sauvageon” as “The Wildling” and was quite proud of that rendering.


    • Andrew C. says:

      Interesting… I’m more likely to pronounced “sparkling” with three syllables if it’s being used as a verb (e.g., “the light was sparkling in her eyes”) but with two if it’s an adjective (“sparkling cider”). I like your translation of “sauvageon”! And it’s all thanks to the productivity of language, even with uncommon English suffixes.


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