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abide

Abide is a funny little word that serves a couple of different purposes.

For one, it means to patiently bear or to tolerate something. But, what’s strange is that it’s more often used in the negative than in its perfectly fine positive sense. People are more likely to say, for example, “I cannot abide nose-pickers” (assuming they do, in fact, not have any tolerance for nose-pickers) than, for example, “I can abide listening to that politician’s longwinded speech, but I’d much rather he not say anything at all.” Of course, maybe that’s because they can’t abide the politician’s speech.

The other use of abide is as a synonym for “dwell in,” although this definition of abide is rather dated and doesn’t get used much these days.

What’s particularly funny about the world (that is, it’s funny if you don’t have much of a sense of humor) are a couple of its other forms: the past tense and the imperfect form.

Abide has two competing past tenses: abode and abided. Abode is the older of the two, but abided is coming on strong. It may have overtaken abode in popularity, but I neither know nor care. What’s interesting is that the abode version of the past tense is also a noun, which I’ll get to a few word entries from now, that is related to the “dwell in” meaning of abide, but not at all to the “tolerate” meaning. OK, so it wasn’t all that funny after all, but if I don’t fill in space here nobody will have anything to read. True, nobody is reading this, but I don’t owe anything to nobody. (I wonder if I’ll get into commenting on double negatives in this project.)

The imperfect form of abide, abiding, is also interesting (not very, but somewhat interesting) in that it too serves as another word. But this one is related to either meaning of abide in only the vaguest of senses; some people would say not at all. I could tell you here what this other meaning of abiding is, but that would spoil the surprise of the next word entry.

Of course, if you already know this other meaning of abiding then it won’t be a surprise and you’ll have to find another reason to come back and check it out. I could try to provide you with a reason, but don’t be so lazy. I can’t do everything, now can I?

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