Over at Three Word Wednesday Thom gave us these three words:
Gasp; verb: Inhale suddenly with the mouth open, out of pain or astonishment; strain to take a deep breath; noun: A convulsive catching of breath.Looking in my big old Webster's, I found the following:
Mute; adjective: Refraining from speech or temporarily speechless; not expressed in speech; characterized by an absence of sound, quiet; noun: A person without the power of speech; verb: Deaden, muffle or soften the sound of; reduce the strength or intensity of (something).
Viable; adjective: Capable of working successfully, feasible.
Gasp is a homegrown Middle English word perhaps associated to Old Norse geispa, yawn, and an Old English word that also meant yawn, thus leading to the idea that the original gasps arise in yawns, which they certainly do, but of course the peaceable yawn gasp is no longer the only kind of sudden inhale and gasp nowadays heads toward the frantic or the startled and even the mortal as the dying often gasp their last breaths. One's last breath may well be a yawn which fails to complete itself as a yawn.At The Rehearsal
Mute is an ancient word which is old enough to have a Sanskrit cognate muka which means an inarticulate sound or a garble (where meaning should have occurred) thus there is an Indo-European source which leads everywhere throughout the later language streams, Sanskrit, Greek, Germanic and Latin. In Old High German the word mawen retains kinship by being the word for crying out or shrieking, again at least inarticulate. Thus the idea "should be able to speak, have meaning, but cannot, does not" is so important that the idea of "mute" has been connected to its own sound and has not fundamentally changed for over seven thousand years in dozens of languages and dialects. Recently even in music "mute" is now a device that dulls and muffles a trumpet's blare and most modern bands with brass members include muted trumpet passages in their music.
Viable comes to English through Middle French where vie already stood for life, itself coming from Latin vita meaning the same. -Able as a suffix is actually present in Old French, coming from Latin suffixes meaning almost exactly what "able" as a word alone means in Modern English. "Able" oddly enough is directly connected through its etymology to "habit". Thus I would add to the "viable" meaning that it is not just cabable of working but of doing so over and over, not just feasible at this moment but for the foreseeable duration. Thus if you want to use "viable" to only mean "for a short time" you have to add qualifiers to signify truncated duration which is otherwise more open ended.
If you gasp your last
in front of me, I would ask
that you at least give
first trumpet orders
to begin using his mute-
to stop blaring forth
the theme right into
my tender slivers of song,
blowing them beyond
all viable use
even though I've harmonized
just right, made them fly.