I have a client who asked me if I could give him a single English word that indicates something works very well. Normally, I would say something "works very well," but this won't do. He wants a single word. All I have been able to come up with is "excel." My client feels that any language worth its salt should have more than one word for the act of performing in a superb manner and as a result, English is a very imperfect language. We can verbalize this concept using more than one word but are apparently limited if a single word is desired. I looked in several thesauruses (thesauri) ,but these books only list single words ("work," "perform," etc.) and hence do not address the concept of something that "operates," "performs," "functions," "works" better than average. Again, "excel" is the only word I can think of. Is there anything else?
By no means is English an imperfect language !!!
What a strange view of (this beautiful) language indeed !!!
Hope this helps...
IThis question was asked by one of my clients in a class. I was surprised and impressed by the question. I feel the question is valid and could, potentially, reveal an interesting flaw in the English language. Because we have coined so many words, I find it hard to believe that words fulfilling this definition have not been hammered into our lexicon. I can think of many English words that require additional words to indicate superior functioning. I cannot, however, think of single words with this ability except the word "excel." I believe Latin-based words often provide this single-word efficiency, but I cannot think of any (except "excel"). I do believe the very fact this situation exists says something about the English language. I always seek the single word rather than the phrase when writing and tell my clients to do the same. It is for this reason that I find this particular situation so interesting: the absence of a collection of single English words meaning "performing or working at a superior level."
I am frustrated by my inability to uncover such a word (other than "excel") and am seeking input or direction.
Many thanks for responding to my letter. I am new to this group, and hope I can find the assistance I need.
But English is full of holes.
We don't have a way to as "how manieth?" (since "manieth" is not a word) as you would if you wanted to know what place you held in line or which president someone was.
We have to say "sister-in-law" to describe both my husband's sister, and my brother's wife. (I believe in some languages, there's a different word for where they fit in the order of the family - that is, how manieth they were in the birth order.)
Those are just two examples that I've come across since I started participating in in ESL forums. I'm sure there are others.
Do you really think that there are languages that don't have single words for things that we do in English? As someone who lived in the northeaster part of the US, I know that snow, sleet, frozen rain, and hail (and other words that I'll omit for the sake of brevity) are different words, but do languages that developed in hot desert climates have all of those words?
I think it's very odd to say a language is flawed simply because it lacks one specific word you are seeking. It would be an inefficient language if it did not have a way to describe the conept at all, but to insist that it have a single word is an odd standard.
I do not feel I have made myself clear, and I am sorry for that. I do not mean to denigrate the English language. All I am trying to do is find a word other than "excel' that indicates that something operates at a level superior to the norm. I came to this site because I thought it would have participants who would be able to help me. I would appreciate any suggested sources i could investigate as well. I am a bit surprised at the results of my research thus far but am still optimistic there are words in English that define what I am seeking.
Many thanks for the suggestions. I do, however, have a question about the verbs using the prefix "out-." Is it not possible to "out- perform, match, class, etc." all those in your field and still not function at a level deemed beyond expectations? It seems to me that the "out-" verbs are more comparative and do not address the true level of achievement, just the achievement level attained against competitors. In some degree, the same could be said for "transcend" as well although it could also stand alone without a comparative consideration.. "Stellar," which is an adjective and not a verb, means 'star-like" and does provide a definition that works when using an adjective. I was seeking verbs, however. Other than "excel" and "transcend," is that it? I am not sure, and am going to continue searching other sources in the meantime.
Ah, the never-ending quest for succinct perfection.
I'm satisfied with a language that gives me 'matchless performance' - that takes two words to convey two concepts, that of comparison, and that of the action.
The hypercritical are always unhappy in a universe with all its diversity - for them, that all-encompassing everything that was the nano of a pinpoint of an atom of a......just prior to the Big Bang.
For them, language must be torture. One has to convey meaning by clumsily putting words together like a child's building blocks!
Last edited by David L.; 16-Jun-2008 at 08:24.