The Joy of Language Learning

Conjugal Bliss: Of Being Yoked Together

The yoke, much like the wheel, is one of those simple yet ingenious inventions that allowed humans to harness the power of domesticated animals – thus proving vital to the development of nascent agriculture, transport and trade. The ancient Indians called yoke yugam, the Greeks called it zugon and the Romans termed it jugum.If we take the stem of jugum and add it to the prefix con- we get conjugal (literally: yoked or joined together), that we use in expressions such as ‘conjugal rights’ and ‘conjugal bliss’ to mean ‘pertaining to marriage or related to the relationship between husband and wife’.

Replacing con- with sub- (Lt: under, below) gives us subjugate. A yogi learning to subjugate his anger is thus learning to subdue or control his anger and if one speaks against subjugation of tribal people and their interests they are (literally speaking) against the tribals being put under the yoke, or their interests being subordinated.

Another related root jungere (to join) gives us the word pair juncture and junction. Juncture originally carried the sense of ‘a place where two things meet’ but later took on the additional sense of ‘a (critical) point in time’, as in, ‘a critical juncture in the history of this institution’.  Conjuncture is also used in a similar sense in sentences such as, ‘At the present conjuncture, it seems impossible to raise money for the acquisition.’

Jungere is also the base of Latin juncta which later became junta in English. If a headline says ‘Junta seizes power’ it’s referring to a group of people (usually, military men) who have ‘joined forces’ to usurp power and run the country.

Adding the prefix con- to the base of juncta, we get conjunct, which refers to something ‘associated or joint together’. Conjunct music thus moves step by step on the musical scale and if someone says ‘the conjunct influence of falling darkness and incessant rain’ they mean ‘combined influence’. Conjunctions, as you know, are words used to join sentences or clauses (for example: and, or, but) and is also sometimes used in phrases such as ‘the result of the conjunction of many unfortunate events’ to mean simultaneous occurrence.

If we replace the con- of conjunction with dis-, we get disjunction (disconnection or separation) – a disjunction between personal and professional objectives leads to stress, and something that has a disjunctive effect on the society, divides or separates the society.

If we, further, swap prefix dis- with prefix in- we get Lt injungere which literally means ‘join or attach’ and was also used in the sense of impose. An injunction, thus, is a command or directive (the boy was sent with a strict injunction that he was not to stop on the way) and a court injunction means a legal prohibition (as in, the court has issued an injunction against the publication of the book).

Enjoin also comes from the same root and thus when someone says ‘our scriptures enjoin us to take care of our environment’ they mean the scriptures command (or order) us to care for our environment and if a movie is enjoined from being screened, it is forbidden or prohibited from being screened. Lt rejoindre was earlier used to mean ‘an answer to a legal charge’ from which rejoin gets its meaning of ‘to reply (to a charge) or to answer (sharply)’ and rejoinder refers to a/n (defendant’s) answer or a quick, witty reply, as in, he kept quiet after her sharp rejoinder.

Adjunct comes from adjungere (something joined or added) and is now generally used in the sense of something additional or extra. Thus adjunct faculty refers to instructors/ professors who (usually teach part time and) do not receive the same compensation and benefits as full time permanent faculty and an adjunct part of an agreement is an additional or subordinate part of the agreement. The same root has also given us adjoin (the plot of land that adjoins their farm) and adjoining (there was a noise in the adjoining room).

Conjoin, on the other hand, means to combine or unite – a good product conjoins aesthetics and functionality.  And to disjoin is to take apart or to separate, as in, power and responsibility cannot be disjoined. And disjointed can also mean incoherent or disorderly.

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