Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Anne Curzan

Is That Really A Word??

I’ve written a number of posts explaining how I understand words—one of the slipperiest things we humans use.


Image by Christian Ferrari ~

I was deep in discussion with my Best Friend last night and she made the eloquent observation that words are, in fact, slippery…

It seems that words come from some other realm, change meanings like chameleons, and slip our minds like cat burglars.

Of course, I’m only talking about English words because I have scant understanding of other languages—languages which have donated many words to English.

But, I do love to look up word histories when my writing demands control over deeper meanings.

I often use an Online Etymology Dictionary for those listings of the roots of words…

Two other cool word-study sites:


The Sciolist

And, here are a few fun word lists.

And, once words are born and start growing up—especially in their adolescence—they pretend they mean new things and they start mating and acting like they’re really some other word.

One simple example—“bad” means “good”…

So, since I’m merely a maverick explorer of the surreal landscape of words, I thought it best to call in an expert.

Anne Curzan is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of English at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.

That may seem to make her some dry-as-dust person to invite into this blog but I can assure you she’s quite capable of talking just like the rest of us :-)

In fact, she has a remarkable ability to understand how the rest of us use words, even those adolescent ones…

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