Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

“World Wide Words” for Folks Who Are REALLY into Words…


World Wide Words is a WebSite/Service that, ironically, only deals with English words.

World Wide Words

Image Courtesy of Brenton Nicholls ~ http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/BJN-31210

Though, the Site’s subtitle is, Investigating the English language across the globe.

I’d linked to World Wide Words in a post back in March of last year called, Some Very Cool WebSites for #Readers & #Writers, which also linked to five other wonderful word-sites…

In that post, I included these words from the World Wide Words Site:

“The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.”

But, that’s all that was said about the site in that post…

Here are a few excerpts from the page about the founder of the site, Michael Quinion (the whole Bio is fascinating…):

“After Cambridge University, where he studied physical sciences, he joined BBC radio as a studio manager.”

“After [two other positions] he returned to working for himself, writing scripts for exhibitions, taking on a freelance curatorial role, creating audio-visual programmes…”

“After illness forced him to take early retirement, he turned to his lifelong love of the English language. Yet another chance encounter led him to become a freelance reader for the Oxford English Dictionary, between 1992 and 2016 supplying more than 175,000 examples of English usage old and new. He also compiled a third of the entries for the second edition of the Oxford Dictionary of New Words. In 1996, he took advantage of spare space on his son’s website to begin posting articles on language. This soon evolved into the World Wide Words website and its associated newsletter. More than 900 issues have appeared.”

With a bit of work, you can subscribe to his newsletters

What might be easier is to access back issues of the newsletter on the site (they go back to 2011...).

Since the bulk of information resides in his newsletters, I’ll reproduce a bit of the December, 2016 issue:

Contents

1. Feedback, Notes and Comments.

2. Not my pigeon.

3. Subnivean.

4. Black as Newgate knocker.

5. In the news.

6. Boxing Day.

From the article, Not my pigeon:

Q: From Helen Mosback: I have just read a serialised version of John Rowland’s Calamity in Kent. It includes this: “In fact, it’s your pigeon, as they say in the civil service.” I was wondering if you could shed any light on the expression it’s your pigeon? I have to admit to being quite taken by the Polish expression not my circus, not my monkeys to indicate that something is not one’s problem, and would be very happy should I have found an equally enchanting English expression!

A: Readers may not be familiar with John Rowland, a little-known and neglected British detective-story writer who published Calamity in Kent in 1950. The British Library has republished it this year in its Crime Classics series.

The date of his book is significant, since at that time the expression was more familiar to people in the countries of what is now the Commonwealth than it is now. It had come into the language around the end of the nineteenth century.

The idiom suggests something is the speaker’s interest, concern, area of expertise or responsibility. This is a recent British example:

If posh people aren’t your pigeon, the correspondence on display in this book will be a massive bore and irritation.

The Times, 8 Oct. 2016.

It also turns up in the negative in phrases such as “that’s not my pigeon”, denying involvement or responsibility in some matter.

There’s quite a bit more of this article on the site…

And, from the article, In the news:

Oxford Dictionaries announced its Word of the Year 2016 on 16 November: post-truth. Its editors defined this as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” One example came in a report in The Times on 31 October of comments by the president of the European Council on the signing of a trade deal with Canada: “Mr Tusk also denounced the ‘post-truth politics … on both sides of the Atlantic’ which nearly scuppered the deal because ‘facts and figures won’t stand up for themselves’ against an emotional opposition campaign.” Though it has been very much a word of this year, connected both with the Brexit referendum in the UK and the US presidential election, Oxford Dictionaries noted that “post-truth seems to have been first used in this meaning in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine.”

Again, there’s more of this article on the site…

Finally, if you’re wordly-adventurous, you can call up a Random Page
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For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

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