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.

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