Posts Tagged ‘words’

August favourites #18: words

August 18, 2018

I’ve always been interested in words, their history, derivation, etymology. Some words sound beautiful – concatenationis one of my favourites. But for sheer weirdness, I pick eleemosynary. Not one that’s easily dropped into conversation, and not one that your interlocutor would understand (probably). For me its utter weirdness stems from the contrast between the noun ‘alms’ as in charitable giving (four letters, begins with a, &c), and its adjectiveeleemosynary. And yet both stem from the same, originally Greek, word. The longer one is the closer to the Greek, the short the ‘English’ derivation. How we got there is a source of wonder to me – yes I know I could look it up in an etymological dictionary – and truly language is a marvellous thing.

I’m doing something different for the holiday month of August, writing about some of my favourites: poems, plays, music, art and other things, a short piece on a different topic each day. The categories are random, as are the choices within them, meaning that’s my favourite that day, and is subject to change… And I will try and explain why each choice is special for me. As always, I look forward to your comments.

My A-Z of Reading: W is for Words

December 20, 2016

I suspect everyone has a favourite word, or some favourite words, that they particularly like the sound of, or the meaning, or the shape… what are yours?

For some reason, I have always liked the word CONCATENATION. And ELEEMOSYNARY is probably my favourite of all, because of its bizarre etymology: it’s the adjective from the rather shorter English word ALMS…

As a child, I loved the nonsense words in Jabberwocky, which I can still recite (with glee!) And, as you’d expect, I enjoy Scrabble, when I can find someone who will play. I always find this a little unfair, as although I do have a decent vocabulary, the letters one gets in the game are random, and usually infuriating. I am a little proud of the fact that I once, many years ago, won a game of French Scrabble, against French opponents.

And then there is the internet, which has spawned a host of websites offering information about words. My favourite is still A Word A Day, to which I was introduced a very long time ago, in the very early days of the internet, by one of my students. You get a new word every day, usually on a theme for the week, its definition, pronunciation and etymology along with some examples of its use, and a random quotation that has nothing at all to do with the word, but is always worth reading. All in an e-mail, for nothing.

Finally a mention for another of my favourite sites, language hat, who blogs most days about words, language and reading, and has far more followers than I do. I come across lots of interesting things there.

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