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A.Word.A.Day--urtext

"Snd urtext b4 9 2nite." Even though it appears like a word from texting, a form of shorthand used in modern cellphone messaging, the word urtext has nothing to do with it. In fact, the term has been around much before cell-yell added to the urban pollution. It comes to us from German, with the prefix ur- (earliest or original). For example, Ursprache = proto-language.

It's believed that Shakespeare's Hamlet was inspired by a play that existed decades earlier. Now lost, this hypothetical play has been called the Ur-Hamlet. Much evidence points its authorship to dramatist Thomas Kyd (1558-1594). Shakespeare's Hamlet was first printed in 1603.

Tack the handy prefix ur- onto everyday words and you can get many useful coinages such as ur-history, ur-source, ur-novelist. But remember, urgent isn't a synonym for Adam.

Interestingly, Ur was also the name of an ancient Sumerian city in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). Since Ur was the home of many early civilizations, one could say Ur civilization was an ur-civilization.

urtext (UHR-tekst, OOR-) noun

The original or earliest version of a text, such as a musical composition or literary work.

[From German ur- (earliest, original) + text, ultimately from Latin texere (to weave). Yes, the words textile and text are derived from the same root. Tissue, context, and texture are other words that share the same origin.]

"... Shadows, The 1959 John Cassavetes urtext screened as part of the 'Sundance Collection,' offering a potent reminder of American independent film's explosive beginnings while underscoring the infinite regression that has since taken hold."
Dennis Lim; Search And Rescue Operations; The Village Voice (New York); Feb 5, 2002.

"Coupland is the author of Generation X, the urtext of slackerhood, and has made a career of plumbing the minds of baby-busters, Xers, or whatever you want to call them."
James Aley; Tales From Slacker Hell a New Novel Explores Bill Gates' Aura; Fortune (New York); Sep 18, 1995.

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