The most beautiful breeze breathes through my new house as I write. The emptiness of the house fills with cool air, and exhales, new again. Whenever I imagine breathing, I think of the <spir(e)> word family. My fifth graders and I studied it last year, dew eyed and fresh from summer vacation. <Inspiration> was the first word we tinkered with. One of my students immediately noticed <in-> and hypothesized that it gave a sense of being within, though prefixes don’t have a denotation, they do add meaning. I high-fived her and then asked her and the others to slow down a minute. Breathe. Give me a sense of this word. Use it in a sentence. “The colorful flowers are great inspiration” “My teacher gave me an inspirational speech”, I offer, to rolled eyes. So now we see that it can affix, perhaps multiple times.
We draw a circle on the board and write <inspiration> in the center. I ask for hypotheses on its structure. We have to break it apart to understand what it is, is not, and what it’s family may be. My teacher in France says that to know what anything truly is, we must know what it is not. “Now can I pull off the <in->?” she breathes, heavily. Sure. I smile at the joyous impatience of feeling like you “get it” and wanting to share it. Ok so we have in + …? “I think there’s an <ion>… but what’s the <t>”. Finally with some discussion we all decide that we feel comfortable with an analytic word sum of <inspiration —> in + spir(e) + at(e) + ion>. Now we can build a house around a base that we have made friends with. Inspire. Perspire. Expired(hmm, where’d that <s> go. Let’s side note that rabbit hole for tomorrow!) Respiration- Breathing again and again. That’s what we do with words, isn’t it? We breathe them in and absorb them into who and what we are. When we breathe them out again, they’re changed. Lightly dusted with a southern drawl, a lengthened vowel, a trill.
We smile at the house we have built, full of siblings, and the sphere around it capturing close and very distant cousins. We are inspired for another day of study. We breathe.