-Ish is a means of describing something without specificity, with a vague approximation. The assumption is that something is known, but what is referred to is not exactly the thing that is known ... but it's sort of like that. Nouns are known, adjectives approximate.1. a suffix used to form adjectives from nouns, with the sense of “belonging to” (British; Danish; English; Spanish); “after the manner of,” “having the characteristics of,” “like” (babyish; girlish; mulish); “addicted to,” “inclined or tending to” (bookish; freakish); “near or about” (fiftyish; sevenish).2. a suffix used to form adjectives from other adjectives, with the sense of “somewhat,” “rather” (oldish; reddish; sweetish).
Today I wonder about the word "selfish." Stripping away the sometimes-derogatory meaning of the word, it seems to refer to the quality of a self ... which, by implication, is a known quantity.
What makes me curious is what, precisely, is known. What noun/known precedes and allows the application of the word "self-ish." In conversation, of course, "everyone knows" what you are talking about when the word "selfish" is applied.
But what is known of this self as a noun that is so blithely turned into an adjective?
"Everyone knows," but what is it that they know? What do you know? What do I know?
And the question arises, "Oh, really...?"
I guess it's not worth losing any sleep over ... unless it is.