What's in a Word | All Blogs

When a fly becomes a moth

By Debra Dobbins

The word “assimilate” comes from the Latin prefix ad meaning “to,” and similare, meaning ”to make similar, “ according to Webster’s.

Webster’s provides a number of definitions. In a physiological sense, to assimilate means “to incorporate nutrients into the body.” Sociologically, it means “to absorb (groups of different cultures) into the main cultural body.” In that sense, America, the world’s great melting pot, has seen centuries of assimilation.

Webster’s notes that assimilate also means to “to absorb and incorporate into one’s thinking.” This is my favorite definition, as I am watching my two grandchildren use assimilation almost constantly now.

For instance, last week my two-year-old grandson spied a tiny moth in my house. “Fly!” he cried.

“That’s a moth,” I replied, seeing the similarity between the two creatures, but wanting him to know the difference.

“Moth,” he repeated, much to my delight.

I was proud that he immediately repeated the word, a good way to assimilate it into his rapidly growing repertoire. He also mastered the “th” blend. I must add that he now frequently rambles on in complete sentences, but often only his five-year-old sis understands them word for word. We have to ask her to translate.

I find moths rather annoying, but I hope another one turns up the next time my grandson visits. I’ll then see if he has truly assimilated the word. As a proud grandma, I’m bettin’ he will.

Photo special to the Sentinel


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