Saturday, November 5, 2011

Swirl, Twirl, & Whirl: A Word Play Moment

I don't know about you, but I love the rhythmic sounds of words similar but yet different. The way the sound rolls off my tongue and permeates the vocal airspace around me. These three words are quite intriguing. Their similarities meld in a completely sensible way, yet each word has a distinctiveness that makes it all its own.

Below are definitions and etymology of each word from Merriam-Webster Dictionary. As you can see, they are very similar, but yet very different.

Swirl: swirl |swərl|
verb [ intrans. ]
move in a twisting or spiraling pattern : the smoke was swirling around him
• [ trans. ] cause to move in such a pattern : swirl a little cream into the soup.
a quantity of something moving in such a pattern : swirls of dust swept across the floor.
• a twisting or spiraling movement or pattern : she emerged with a swirl of skirts | swirls of color.

ORIGIN late Middle English (originally Scots in the sense [whirlpool] ): perhaps of Low German or Dutch origin; compare with Dutch zwirrelen ‘to whirl'

Twirl: verb [ intrans. ]
spin quickly and lightly around, esp. repeatedly : she twirled in delight to show off her new dress.

an act of spinning : Kate did a twirl in front of the mirror.
• a spiraling or swirling shape, esp. a flourish made with a pen.

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: probably an alteration (by association with whirl ) of tirl, a variant of archaic trill [twiddle, spin.]

Whirl: whirl |(h)wərl|
move or cause to move rapidly around and around - I whirled her around the dance floor.
• move or cause to move rapidly : Sybil stood waving as they whirled past | he was whirled into the bushes.
• (of the head, mind, or senses) seem to spin around : Kate made her way back to the office, her mind whirling.
• (of thoughts or mental images) follow each other in bewildering succession : a kaleidoscope of images whirled through her brain.

noun [in sing. ]
a rapid movement around and around.
• frantic activity of a specified kind : the event was all part of the mad social whirl.
• [with adj. ] a specified kind of candy or cookie with a spiral shape : a hazelnut whirl.

ORIGIN Middle English : the verb probably from Old Norse hvirfla ‘turn around’ ; the noun partly from Middle Low German, Middle Dutch wervel ‘spindle,’ or from Old Norse hvirfill ‘circle,’ from a Germanic base meaning ‘rotate.’

Now for my feeble attempt at using these three words together in a sentence. 

The little girl twirled excitedly in her new dress, her mind whirling with expectation, as the colorful leaves swirled around her face. (All 3 words used as verbs)

The sudden whirl of activity baffled the man, but what he did not see was the swirl of clouds rapidly approaching him from behind until he did a twirl in the direction of the wind. (Words used as nouns) 

What about you? Can you put these three words in perspective?
Are there other trilogy of words that have similar meanings?