Take a Word.... Let: Etymology, Definition, 'let' as a Suffix and a Story
Middle English & Old English before 900; Middle English ‘leten’, Old English ‘laetan’, cognate with Dutch ‘laten’, German ‘lassen’, Old Norse ‘lata’, Gothic ‘letan’; akin to Greek ‘ledein’ to be weary, Latin ‘lassus’ tired
An Interesting Word
'let' can mean allow, grant, leave, suffer, lease, rent, sublet, hire. Its idiomatic use is extensive and it can also be used as a suffix, an add-on to change meaning.
I’ll let you see what I mean with the following.
verb: let, letting
- to allow or permit
- to allow to pass, go or come (let us through)
- to grant the occupancy or use of land, buildings, space etc, for rent or hire
- to contract or assign for performance, usually under contract
- to cause to; make (let one know the truth)
- used in the imperative as an auxiliary expressive of a request, command, warming, suggestion… ‘Let me see. Just let them try!’
verb: (without object): to admit of being rented or leased. ‘It lets for £100 per week’
noun: (British) a lease
Story: Don't Let the Grass Grow Under your Feet
Now let me see… which way should I go?
I was standing at the crossroads, full of expectant adventure, gazing this way and that, having let my flat to a spotty student and hoping he didn’t let it go to seed. Would it still look like mine when I returned or would he have let me down?
‘Get going!’ my thoughts urged. ‘Let’s get this show on the road.’
So I let my feet decide. They took me straight on towards a hazy mirage of a house with a plane on top.
Letting off Steam
I’ll let you into a secret. I’d messed up and let life get the better of me. You see, there was this guy - well, yes, isn’t there always? Great looking, sense of humour, life and soul, you get the drift. Trouble was, I let down my guard and, having reeled me in hook, line and sinker, he let slip that he was married. He’d let the cat out of the bag and I couldn’t let it rest.
Well, I let rip! I just let off steam, let him have it. Let me tell you, it was a sight to behold. There was no let up. Picture a cartoon with a crazy woman jumping up and down, yelling and screaming, hair on end, arms flailing, balloon coming out of the mouth with expletive punctuation marks. Let it be known that I was not a happy bunny.
Then I let loose on his wardrobe, his computer and his pride and joy, the car. When I’d finished with it, the immaculate, sparkling, racing green Jaguar was keyed, defaced, multi-coloured and looked more like a dog. Oh yes, and I phoned his wife. That was nasty I admit but how could I let sleeping dogs lie?
Origin of letting off steam!
Let’s face it, he couldn’t let that go, could he? I ended up in court and having to pay for the damage. His usual live and let live turned into live and try to destroy. He wouldn’t let up. He took me for every penny. Then he said he’d have to let me go! As if I was a hired help, on the payroll. I’d already scarpered of course. No money, no wish to stick around that neck of the woods, no wish to let bygones be bygones, so I decided to have a sabbatical, hence letting the flat.
I’d let the side down and now I had to pay for it. It was time to let go of the past, move on, let life throw at me whatever it chose. I was ready. I let out a yell, ‘Let’s roll!’ I wasn’t going to let the grass grow under my feet.
That’s how I happened to be walking towards the mirage of the house with a plane on top. I couldn’t figure out the shimmering shape of the homestead, let alone the presence of a plane.
Get it Straight!
Of course as I neared the building, it morphed into reality. The thatched, pale-stoned dwelling sat neatly by the lane. On the land behind it, atop a grassy slope, was a two-seater bi-plane. Its wheels were restrained by stiff grass, the propellers had long seized, ashamed by rust. This sorry bird had let itself go.
A lanky figure appeared at the doorway. Long hair let loose and leathered skin admitting age, the woman stared as I approached. I nodded good day.
Refreshment and Conversation
The eyes squinted curiosity,
‘Looks like you could do with some refreshment,’ she stated, expecting no denial, and ushered me through the front gate. Having let me in she said, ‘Come round the back and sit while I pour some fresh lemonade.’
So I sat looking out over the field at the panorama and the plane. I’d let my imagination run wild regarding the history of that pile of metal thrown into disrepair, when the woman emerged with a tray, a jug of lemonade and two glasses. One sip lifted my spirits and gave me a rasping thirst. I downed all in seconds and magically the glass was full once more. She let me sit awhile, then,
‘How come you’re out here on your own? Unusual to see a gal alone on this road. Running from something, eh?’ Her eyes were sharp and let no emotion show.
I didn’t let on. ‘Just looking for a change, bit of adventure, let my hair down a bit.’ Wanting to change the subject, I asked, ‘I’m Sam, by the way. How come you’ve let nature take its course with that plane? Is it yours?’
The Grim Reaper
Saski's husband and the plane
She replied, ‘I’m Saski. Well, I suppose it’s kinda mine. My husband made it and flew it but he let in the Grim Reaper and there it is.’
Her eyes were misty, a whimsical smile playing at her lips.
‘I was hoping a young man would appear to sort it out and fly it out of here. Ah well….’ she shrugged, then with a conspiratorial glance said,
‘Don’t let this go any further, but he was a spy, my husband. In World War II he flew reconnaissance trips over the channel, too small and too low to be easily identified, nor easily gunned down. They wanted him to continue but his eye sight failed so he was let off the hook.’
She let out a huge sigh, then her gaze became more direct, weighing me up.
‘How about if you cleaned it up and learnt how to fly?” Her mouth discharged the gun shots of the challenge.
I was astonished! Why on earth would I do that? How on earth would I do that?
Reading my thoughts, she let out the reason,
‘I can teach you but I can’t do it myself.. vertigo you know. If you do it, I’ll pay you. There’s a race to enter next month. The winner is paid £20,000. That’ll let us live the high life for a while!’ Her face came close to mine,
‘Well, wha’ d’ya think?’ The look willed me to accept, pierced my heart, thrilled my sense of adventure.
Two thousand of these!
What should I do?
‘You know how to make this thing work? You can teach me?’
‘Yes, but you’ll have to learn it all before your first flight - solo. Do you have the nerve? Are you brave? Are you a pioneer? You were sent on this path for a purpose. Gonna let it slip?’
Her expression gave nothing away. She didn’t blink until I answered,
“Let’s get this show on the road!’ I yelled. She burst a smile as broad as a sunray, flung her arms about me and lifted me off my feet, dancing round the garden.
Could I make it?
I learnt to fly. She took me through the paces until I was blue in the face. She tested me twenty times a day. I was eating and sleeping flight manoeuvres. I’d restored the big bird with the aid of a manual and Saski’s practical knowledge. I sat at the controls every day. I couldn't let up.
The day came. I could put it off no longer. I let off the brakes, trundled over the tussocked grass and let her have her wings. My stomach lurched. Forget butterflies! Dragons, more like.
Do you know what? It worked. I was as high as a kite - literally and emotionally. I let my body relax, cleared my mind and thought only of Saski’s lessons. I knew, however, that the most dangerous part was landing. The long field had been well-mown, marked out and one solitary fire extinguisher placed at the far end. As if!
It wobbled... it bounced... twice. Then I let my trusty machine work the thermals, hover over the ground and touch down with grace. I'd made it.
How did it all happen? I won the race. Saski and I had £20,000. True to her word, she gave me half.
What will I do with it? Not sure really. I’ve been debating that for over 10 years. Saski needs my care now and I’ve got a job. In fact, I was married five years ago and we live in our own part of that house. The plane’s still there, in the field. Difference is, we fly at least once a month, here and there, just for the sheer thrill of it all.
Once, due to a man, I flew off the handle and let my feelings get the better of me. Now, due to a man (and Saski of course), I’m flying high and running errands for all our neighbours. I think I’ve come a long way. Thing is, we’ve still a lot further to go.
Well, let your heart rule your head once in a while, take a risk and let life follow its course. You never know where it will take you!
‘Let them eat cake!’
A phrase misattributed to Marie Antoinette, supposed to have said this on being told that the peasants had no bread, it's said to illustrate how little she understood the plight of the peasants as they certainly would not have had money to buy the ingredients of cake, such as a ‘brioche’ (a rich sponge made with butter) if they had no money for basic bread.
Using 'let' + 'out'
You can have a ‘let out clause’ in a contract, something which can get you out of sticking to something you’ve signed.
You can ‘let out’ a dress, so that the garment which is too small will fit better.
A colloquial phrase, ‘let it all hang out’ means let your inhibitions go, let your emotions show.
Songs (in chronological order)
‘Let’s Do It’ - Cole Porter (1928)
‘Let’s Jump the Broomstick’ - Brenda Lee (1959)
‘Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! - Dean Martin (1959)
‘Let it be Me’ - The Everly Brothers (1960)
‘Let’s Hang On!’ - The Four Seasons (1965)
‘Let the Heartaches Begin’ - Long John Baldry (1967)
‘Let’s Dance’ - Chris Montez (1962)
‘Let it Be’ - The Beatles (1970)
‘Let’s Get it On’ - Marvin Gaye (1973)
‘Let your Love Flow’ - The Bellamy Brothers (1976)
‘Let’s Stick Together’ - Bryan Ferry (1976)
‘Let’s Dance’ - David Bowie (1983)
Ways with Words
This ‘Take a Word..’ series deals with the use of words, making writing more interesting, weaving words to make an intricate fabric. I’m issuing you with a challenge, following on from a question I asked Bill Holland recently, for his ‘Monday Mailbag’ series.
The question was whether he thought a good writer could make the most boring of subjects interesting. You can read his answer at:
In a nutshell it was, of course, that a good writer can tackle anything and make it sound fascinating.
So this is your Challenge!
Choose the most boring object or subject you can think of and write an engaging, entertaining, fascinating hub about it. You can make your own choice or write about one of the following:
- watching paint dry
- a blank floorboard
- monotonous music
- airport runway
- lying ill in bed with bandages on your eyes and no music
- a wilted leaf in a pocket
I’m sure you can think of something even more mundane. Just make sure you write about that subject as the core, not merely include it in passing.
There is no prize, apart from the satisfaction of taking up the challenge and writing a story, poem, whatever you will, which stuns the reader into saying, ‘I wish I’d thought of that!’
So let’s get this straight: my message to all my hubber friends is let your hair down, let the good times roll and let’s get writing! I expect at least ten responses to this - well, I hope!
More of the Mundane
As a suffix '-let' gives a meaning of smaller or lesser or creates a diminutive of an existing word.
Middle English -let, -lette; Middle French -elet, equivalent to -el
(Latin -ale, neuter of -alis - al (cf. bracelet) or Latin -ellus diminutive suffix; cf. -elle, chaplet) + -et
What's for '-let'?!
tablet - medicine or computer!
of the land: inlet, islet
Jewellery: bracelet, anklet
Sources & Responses
http://hubpages.com/literature/The-Leaf-A-Short-Story - John Hansen (jodah)
http://hubpages.com/literature/Airport-Runway-Flash-Fiction-Anns-Challenge - always exploring
The Purple Room - annart's challenge of the mundane - Suzette Walker suzettetaos
The Green Room - an accompaniment to The Purple Room
Let's see what you think!
When writing, do you let.....
© 2016 Ann Carr