Monday, 22 August 2011


Anna Hazare has been on a protest fast for almost a week and public support for him and for the Jan Lok Pal has been growing by the day, throughout India. I don't know what his confrontation with the government will lead to but it has certainly made the tv-news more interesting.

But what does all this have to do with the English language?

Well, the other day I began thinking about the word fast and I was wondering how it came to acquire this meaning. So I decided to investigate.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the original meaning of the verb to fast was "to hold firmly" which evolved into "firm control of oneself" and then to "holding to observance".

The verb to fasten now makes sense: "to close something such as a piece of clothing or a bag using the buttons, zip, clip etc. on it", as Macmillan Dictionary says.

And so does the meaning of the adjective  fast: "firmly fixed, steadfast, secure, enclosed", from which we get fast friends, meaning "firm friends".

As an adverb it means "quickly, swiftly", which evolved from its original meaning: "firmly, strongly, vigorously", hence the phrase fast asleep. 

Sunday, 7 August 2011

External links

Here are links to some interesting articles that I came across recently:-

1. Not all adverbs end in -ly.

2. The subjunctive in English; you could forget about the article but do read the comments.

3. A very clear spelling mistake.