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Comment from: it-ogo [Visitor]
powerful is могуЧий
The only meaning of могуЩий is a present participle of мочь.

ущ is rather general colloquial suffix for adjectives which means "very much". For example: дорогущий - very expensive, злющий - very angry etc.

Don responds: It-ogo, thanks as always for your thoughtful comments. You are of course right that the -ущий suffix is sometimes used to add the idea of “very.” The question is what is the source of that meaning? The most common instance of -ущий is in present active participles. One can posit that as the source, but by itself it doesn't explain how the “very” idea gets in there. My current interpretation is that the meaning is influenced specifically by могущий, the antiquated form of могучий powerful. Powerful means “very strong,” so by drawing a parallel with that word, we provide an explanation of the “very” idea.

Of course, the -щ- also shows up in irregular comparative forms like слаще sweeter, проще simpler, and гуще thicker, which may also have some relevance. Those forms don't explain the presence of the -у-, so for the moment I'm sticking with могущий as a likely source. If any grad students in historical linguistics are looking for a potential short paper topic, this might be a good one. And if you write it, please send me a copy!

Prof. James Augerot of the University of Washington's Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures pointed out several other words that have this "aggrandizing" suffix: грязнущий very dirty, длиннущий very long, проклятущий completely damned, здоровущий really big/powerful. The latter, by the way, does not mean “really healthy.”

08/17/09 @ 14:08

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