Sideways and Clockwise

background image 113

A reader seeks to understand two uses of the English word wise:

Can you please suggest how can we use the word “wise”. The meaning of “wise” is related to wisdom (Having or prompted by wisdom or discernment).
But some times I use this when some thing needs to be done in a way. for e.g. day wise, company wise, team wise and so on.

Old English had two similarly spelled words derived from the same ProtoGermanic source:

wis: learned, wise
wise: manner, way

It also had two verbs from the same source:

witan: to know
wisian: to direct or to guide

The word wise in the sense of “manner” survived in two suffix forms: -wise and -ways, giving us such words as always, sideways, likewise and otherwise.

Here’s Fowler’s note on these suffixes:

1. The ending -ways or occasionally -way, is often used indifferently with -wise, & is very seldom the only form without one in -wise by its side–perhaps only in always.

2. In a few established words, -wise is alone, esp. clockwise, coastwise, likewise, otherwise, sunwise.

3. In other established words both forms are used, as breadth-, broad-, end-, least-, length-, long-, no-, side-, slant-.

4. In words made for the occasion from nouns, as in Use it clubwise or pokerwise, Go crabwise or frogwise, Worn cloakwise or broochwise or chainwise . . , -wise is now much the commoner.

Fowler was writing about 80 years ago, but his observations remain valid.

Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!

You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!

Each newsletter contains a writing tip, word of the day, and exercise!

You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!

2 thoughts on “Sideways and Clockwise”

  1. How about the misuse of ‘wise’ as in:

    ‘I don’t have anything food-wise to bring to the party’

    ‘What’s it going to do weather-wise?’

    ‘Clothing-wise, I have a lot of old sweaters to contribute.’

    Unfortunately, I could go on, but those are good enough example-wise.

  2. I’m reminded of a phrase from an old movie that a friend just said to me the other day: “That’s the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.” A clever twist on the usual wording, I think!

Leave a Comment