The Joy of Language Learning
Weaving Text and Context

Weaving Text and Its Context

The craft of weaving clothes and fabrics has been around since the first civilizations laid claim to parts of the earth. Unlike the mechanized world we live in, weavers of the yore wove intricate details by hand and their produce was nothing less than magnificent pieces of art. The demand for brilliantly crafted fabric was overwhelming and they were an important trade commodity, evident from that fact the Chinese trade route to the middle east and Europe was referred to as the Silk Route. But, weaving also found a route to our dictionaries and various words we use today trace their ancestry to it.

Weaving
Image Credit: videaki/ Pixabay

The Latin word for ‘weaving’ is texere. Its hints are seen to this day in the word textile which refers to cloth or woven fabric.

One important attribute of any woven fabric is how it looks and feels – a quality that was referred to as textura. It was then introduced into the English language as ‘texture’. Thus, texture means the feel, appearance or consistency of something. For instance, if referring to a fabric’s texture, it means how the fabric feels against our skin.

Texture
Texture of jute fabric.
Image Credit: lovepixs/ Pixabay

The art of weaving, however, was not limited to clothes and fabrics. It found its use in the hands of writers as well. Afterall, all writers do is ‘weave words into pages’. Courtesy of these ‘word weavers’, the word text, meaning printed or written words, was derived from texere. Anything related to the text was textual.

Text
Image Credit: cocoparisienne/ Pixabay

When prefixed with con– (with), we get the word ‘context’ (from Lt. contexere : weave together). It refers to the parts of text written or spoken immediately after a specific word or phrase, clarifying its meaning. Context is also used in a broader sense to refer to the circumstances surrounding an event, statement or idea which gives us a better understanding of the entity. For instance, the Battle of Buxar is an important event in the context of Indian history.

A different prefix pre- when attached to ‘text’ results in ‘pretext’ which means a reason given for doing something that is not the actual reason. It is derived from praetextere(literally: to weave in front) which meant to hide, disguise or cover. Thus, if someone is asking for a leave on the pretext of being sick, he or she might just be planning to hang out with friends while others think they are having it rough. Moving from the frontside to the underside, we have ‘subtext’ (Lt. subtexere: to weave under; underlying thread) which refers to the underlying theme of, say, a play or a book.

Tissue
Plant Tissue
Image Credit: Ed Uthman/ Flickr

The word tissue has roots similar to the above words but it’s directly derived from the Old French word tissu (ribbon, headband, belt of woven material). Nowadays, tissue has acquired various meanings. Generally, it means a piece of absorbent paper that can be used as a handkerchief. In a biological sense, it refers to a group of similar cells that carry out a specific function in the body.

A quick look at the words again should make the quiz ahead easy.


Table Summary:

PrefixWordSuffixMeaning
TextileCloth or woven fabric
TextureThe feel, appearance or consistency of something
TextWritten or printed words
Text-ualRelating to written or printed words
Con-TextThe circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood
Pre-TextA reason given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason
Sub-TextUnderlying theme (of a play, book, etc.)
TissueA piece of absorbent paper that can be used as a handkerchief; a group of similar cells that carry out a specific function in the body

Welcome to your The Text and Its Context

Which of the following words refers to clothes or woven fabric?
What does “texture” mean in the given headline?
Texture
Source: express.co.uk
The _____________ on the screen was too small to be read from such a distance (written words).
What does “context” mean in the given headline?
Context
Source: indianexpress.com
“Pretext” in the given headline means:
Pretext
Source: timesofindia.com
The [subtext] of caste system is present in most of Munshi Premchand’s stories. The bracketed word refers to:
“Tissue” in the given headline means:
Tissue
Source: engadgets.com
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