Serge - surge

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Don't confuse the homophones serge and surge. They are pronounced IPA: /sɜːrdʒ/, to rhyme with 'urge', 'purge' and 'merge'. (There is also the proper noun Serge, which can be realized with a much more French character, /sɛrʒ/.) (Don't confuse either of these, perhaps by a typing mistake, with Sarge.)

  • The common noun serge denotes a kind of woollen cloth. Its nature would appear to have changed during the centuries: mostly used for furnishings (hangings and bed-covers, etc) in the Middle Ages, it was used to make tough clothes for poorer people in the 16th century, and has become common in military and other uniforms. It is woven with diagonal lines or ridges apparent on both sides: the serge made in Nîmes in France (serge de Nîmes) gave rise to the word (and the cloth) denim (see Words Derived From Names of Places ). Its etymology, too, shows some kind of change in status: it comes from the postulated form sārica, a version of the Latin sērica, which is derived from the Greek σηρικός (sērikos) 'silken', 'made of silk' - a more prestigious and valued material than wool; French serge, or silk serge, mostly used for linings, is still woven from silk.
    • The proper noun Serge (pronounced with the soft '-g-' /ʒ/) is the French form of the common Russian, and other Slavonic, forename Sergei (pronounced in English with a hard '-g-' 'SIR-gay', /'sɪr geɪ/; and in Russian /'sjir gjej/ (LPD). The name has been popular in Russia since Saint Sergei (or Sergius) of Radonezh (1314-1392). It is the old Latin surname Sergius (modern Italian Sergio). Famous Sergeis include the composers Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) and Prokofiev (1891-1953), the film-maker Eisenstein (1898-1948), Brin, co-founder of Google, (b. 1973) and the ballet producer Diaghilev (1872-1929); those called Serge include the rugby players Betsen (b. 1974) and Blanco (b.1958) and the singer Gainsbourg (1928-1991).
  • Surge may be a noun or a verb.
    • The noun 'a surge' means 'an increase or rise [often sudden or large] in some steady process'; 'an unexpected large rise in a stream of continuous events'. It first denoted 'a spring or other source of water', a meaning which is obsolete. It was then applied - and still is by seafarers - to 'a wave higher than the current pattern', 'a rising swell'. Since then, various figurative uses have developed, such as
      • a tidal, or storm, surge, where atmospheric conditions combine to make a tide rise remarkably higher than usual;
      • a surge in a crowd or group of people, where there is a sudden movement (usually forwards), which may be the precursor of a stampede;
      • an electrical surge, which is a sudden increase in the current or voltage in a circuit (A surge in the power supply (a 'power surge') may cause damage to appliances);
      • a troop surge is a bold increase in the number of soldiers posted to a particular scene of operations, in addition to the normal allocation;
      • in Economics, surges are sudden 'spikes' or rises in phenomena being measured, such as unemployment, inflation or population;
      • at sea, a surge can be a sudden jerk or strain on a rope which normally has a steady load
    • The intransitive verb 'to surge' is used in the same contexts as the nouns above, with the same meanings: tides, crowds, electric power, troops and inflation, etc, can all surge.