Chinese Ag

There is no af, so the next word I will consider is ag, which is short for agriculture. Like ab, it would seem to be most natural as an adjective. “I’m auditing a couple of ag classes down at the community college.” But it’s also, apparently, an expression of annoyance that comes to us from South Africa. “Ag, those ag courses are awful.”

Ag takes a bunch of letters on the front end, to derive such commonplace words as bag, fag, gag, hag, jag, lag, mag, rag, sag, tag, wag and zag. (Yes, zag is a word. Opposite of zig.)

I left off dag only because it bears special mention. Though I was not entirely sure this was a legitimate word, it seems to have no less than six etymologically distinct definitions. The most amusing of these is “a clump of feces stuck to the wool of a sheep, also used in Australia as a term of friendly abuse” (via Wikipedia) which has apparently given rise to an Australian subculture.

On the other end, ag generates only three words, the familiar age and ago, as well as the less well-known aga.

What’s an aga? Why, it’s an alternate form of agha, natch. Ah, yes, “an honorific for high officials used in Turkey and certain Muslim countries” (via Wiktionary). For example, it seems that in the Ottoman Empire the Sultan’s harem was run by the Kizlar Agha and the Kapi Agha — the Chief Black Eunuch and the Chief White Eunuch, respectively. But I wouldn’t want to give the impression that (aga or agha) means eunuch; I think it derives from the Turkish ağa meaning “lord, master, chief, boss, landowner.” As strange as it may seem, the Kizlar Agha was the third most power official in the entire empire, subordinate only to the Sultan himself and the Grand Vizier.

Chinese Ag / Alex and Stacy / CC BY 2.0

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