Monday Metaphor: Prosthesis: Embolden your writing

I know you thought of the other meaning of prosthesis (prothesis) when you saw the metaphor for today.

The more well-known definition of “prosthesis” is that of an artificial body part, such as a replacement limb or eye.

But the word also has a linguistic meaning, closely resembling the first: “the addition of a sound or syllable at the beginning of a word to make the word easier to pronounce.”

The etymology of prosthesis comes from the Greek, meaning “to put before.”

Shakespeare uses it often for poetic effect:

Prospero: “I have bedimm’d the noontide sun.” Shakespeare, The Tempest



Touchstone: “I remember, when I was in love I broke my sword upon a stone and bid him take that for coming a-night to Jane Smile.” Shakespeare, As You Like It

I all alone beweep my outcast state.—Shakespeare Sonnets, 29

When Shakespeare says, “I hold her as a thing enskied.” he is implying that the girl should be placed in the heavens.

King Lear: “Old fond eyes, beweep this cause again.” Shakespeare, King Lear


I used it in “Hammers,” my story published in both Senior Times and Musings: “Some of the hammers are made of silver or gold, often encrusted with precious jewels.”

And in:

 “Little Hippo,” in Parents and Children Together:

“Enough! Enough! About flying and singing,”

Said Little Elephant, his trunk a-swinging.

“You can’t toss rocks or swing in trees.

Come back with me to the river, please.”

Prostheses are found in other works of literature.

Here is Bob Dylan’s usage in “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”

            “And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,

            And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.”

E. B. White’s humor is showing in this answer to a New Yorker editor who changed the word “fresh” to “afresh” in one of his essays.

“My characters will hence forth go afishing, and they will read Afield and Astream. Some of them, perhaps all of them, will be asexual.”

There is more humor in this ungrammatical line from the movie, Mean Girls. Gretchen (played by Lacey Chabert) says, “Irregardless, ex-boyfriends are just off limits to friends. I mean that’s just like the rules of feminism.”

Here is an array of well-known prosthetic words :

Asleep and adream.

I hope it will be just as you envisioned it.

He lay abed.

bemoan = moan, bewail

bedevil = torment

becalm – deprive a ship of wind

bedazzle = dazzle

bedeck = adorn

bedraggle = untidy, disheveled

befit – suitable

befuddle = confuse

bemuse = perplex, baffle

It seems to me, in many cases the prefix reinforces the meaning of the word itself.

Don’t be afrightened to use prosthesis in your work and share with us.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nancy Stewart
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 09:08:38

    Well, you’ve done it again! Such a fun and interesting post. Keep ’em coming!


  2. James Hartley
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 11:10:18

    I found a spot to use this, where adding the prothesis creates a nice alliterative effect. I am currently trying to market a collection of short stories containing both Science Fiction and Fantasy, and came up with a title for it of “Worlds Away and Worlds Aweird.” I know there’s no such word as “aweird” but so what? Using “away” and “aweird” provides a nice sound.


  3. Barbara Ehrentreu
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 11:24:55

    Barbara, I always enjoy your explanations and examples of language constructions. This one particularly made me think of those words that though they seem almost archaic, the use in Shakespeare, can be used quite effectively in more modern literature. James’ use of one that he doesn’t think is a word is a good example.

    Here’s another example I remember from my childhood:

    A-hunting we will go, a-hunting we will go

    I’m not sure where it’s from, though, because I think it’s got the same tune as “The Farmer Takes a Wife” an old nursery rhyme game we played.:)


  4. J Q Rose
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 14:34:28

    What an enlightening post. Thank you.


  5. barbarabockman
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 17:45:46

    Thanks to all of you for stopping by. I was out of town last weekend and the week before I messed up on my posting.

    Nancy, thanks for your encouragement.

    Jim, if Shakespeare could coin words, why not you? I love it that you were able to “think on your feet” so to speak. I’m glad my post was helpful.

    I agree, Barbara. I’m glad Jim shared his prothesis word with us. I remember the childhood song you referred to. BTW, I’m glad you were able to put your book cover on your avatar. It’s intreguing.

    J. Q. Thanks for your comment. Let me know if you ever use any of these literary devices.


  6. Pam Maynard
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 19:31:01

    Barb, You are amazing! I learned so much from this post! And I deal with patient’s prosthetics all day, now I will be all confused:)
    Love this one!


  7. barbarabockman
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 11:16:39

    Hi Pam,
    Sorry if I confused you LOL! You’ll have to write me through GPs and tell us all about your job.
    Next time leave a link to your blog and the topic for the day.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Contact Info:

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.


Blog Stats

  • 42,372 Visits
%d bloggers like this: