3 June 2021
I had a discussion about language with my husband the other day. To be fair, we’ve been married for over 37 years, so we’ve mostly run out of all the interesting topics. And it was a rainy day and there was a brief lapse in the sport on the telly.
He was enquiring on the meaning of the word antipasto. Being unafraid to offer my opinion in all matters of language (ok, and a lot of other areas too), I surmised that the ‘anti’ meant ‘before’, and the ‘pasto’ referred to a main meal. Possibly pasta, being an Italian word. I was reasonably correct, but the pasto bit comes from pastus, meaning meal. So basically it means the same thing as entree (unless you’re American!), hors d’oerve, starter, canapé, or amuse bouche (if you are…..um….French??).
Obviously my interpretation of the anti part of the word was linked to my knowledge of the word antenatal, because I’ve given birth twice and stuff relating to that will not be forgotten in a hurry. Which, by the way, takes me straight to a quote from my Mum, who was relating to me a memory of a friendship that stretched back to meeting at antenatal classes before the births of their children. Mum, in a slip of the tongue that never escapes my attention or memory (sorry Mum) – referred to these classes as anti birth classes. Which, after your first child, probably sums up subsequent prospective deliveries.
So – anti or ante??? Antipasto and a few other words aside, the dictionary is quite strict on the premise that anti means against, and ante means before.
And there’s a lot of interesting ante words that I’ve heard but haven’t spent a rainy afternoon Googling. Here’s a summary, to save you that laborious task.
Antebellum – means before the war, although I’ve never heard of any war described as bellum. First and second world bellum??
Anteroom – a room before another room.
Ante meridian – before noon, one we are all more familiar with the abbreviation, of course.
Antepenultimate – before the second last in a sequence. I love this one! I would often throw penultimate into a conversation just to prove that I know some big words, but now I can throw an even bigger, weirder word into discussions.
Antecedent – earlier in time or order
Antecrochet is not, as you may assume, the time before you crochet something, but a fold of enamel on the molar teeth of some rhinoceros. Good to know. I have, on occasion, been fairly anticrochet, usually when I have to unpick something to correct a mistake. But there’s never been a rhinoceros present.
My search of ante words dipped very deeply into medical words that we really don’t want to know. Let’s just take it as read that medical people love their pronouns.
There are a few ante-meaning words, like antipasto, that are spelled with an i instead of e, such as:
Antiquity – earlier times
Anticipate – to realise beforehand
And of course there’s antique, which means ‘belonging to an earlier period’, not ‘someone who doesn’t want to queue for something’.
Oh – by the way – don’t you find it interesting that the word queue is just one letter followed by four silent letters??? No???? Oh well – back to the sport on the idiot box. Maybe in front of a charcuterie board 🤣