Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Online Etymology Dictionary

Blog Conversation About Word Histories . . .


Etymology Blog Conversation

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Our last conversation was about Grammar—the final post, which had no comments, was, Further Conversation about Grammar, and has links to the two previous posts in the discussion…

The new conversation feature here (on Mondays & Wednesdays) continues the discussion when there’s at least one comment on any given post…

So…

I get to start a new conversation :-)

Many of you who’re reading this will have come across the word “Etymology”—some of you will know what it means…

The easy definition for etymology is “word history”—a longer one, from the Oxford Dictionary, is:

“The study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.”

My favorite source for studying etymologies is the Online Etymology Dictionary; and, here’s the etymology of “Etymology”:

{ hang on to your mind—it’s long… }

late 14c., ethimolegia “facts of the origin and development of a word,” from Old French etimologieethimologie (14c., Modern French étymologie), from Latin etymologia, from Greek etymologia“analysis of a word to find its true origin,” properly “study of the true sense (of a word),” with -logia“study of, a speaking of” (see -logy) + etymon “true sense, original meaning,” neuter of etymos “true, real, actual,” related to eteos “true,” which perhaps is cognate with Sanskrit satyah, Gothic sunjis, Old English soð “true,” from a PIE *set- “be stable.” Latinized by Cicero as veriloquium.

In classical times, with reference to meanings; later, to histories. Classical etymologists, Christian and pagan, based their explanations on allegory and guesswork, lacking historical records as well as the scientific method to analyze them, and the discipline fell into disrepute that lasted a millennium. Flaubert [“Dictionary of Received Ideas”] wrote that the general view was that etymology was “the easiest thing in the world with the help of Latin and a little ingenuity.”

As a modern branch of linguistic science treating of the origin and evolution of words, from 1640s. As “account of the particular history of a word” from mid-15c. Related: Etymologicaletymologically.

As practised by Socrates in the Cratylus, etymology involves a claim about the underlying semantic content of the name, what it really means or indicates. This content is taken to have been put there by the ancient namegivers: giving an etymology is thus a matter of unwrapping or decoding a name to find the message the namegivers have placed inside. [Rachel Barney, “Socrates Agonistes: The Case of the Cratylus Etymologies,” in “Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy,” vol. xvi, 1998]

I’m pretty sure some of you scanned that blockquote very quickly; and, I probably totally lost a couple folks…

Still…

For writers and publishers (and, even readers) etymologies can be invaluable…

Yes, while there certainly are people who will argue strongly that the historical origin of a word can have very little to do with current usage, let me share a personal philosophical consideration:

Consider the idea that words have “souls”—the “true inner meaning” of the word…

Just like human souls, that original inner meaning is still there when the word is very, very old—much has changed about that word’s “personality and habits”; but, the inner meaning of its soul is eternally the same…

I just happen to be a 72-year-old man—been around the block many, many times; yet, still, in spite of the mileage my body and personality have racked up, my “true inner meaning” as a soul is the same as when I was created…

It’s certainly grown; but, being a soul, it maintains its core Meaning; otherwise, the guy sitting in this chair typing these words would have been ridiculously confused every moment of his life—I’d have had no anchor to tie down and organize the multitudinous events that have tried to force me into their mold, rather than having my soul integrate them into the expanding scaffold of my growing personality (which can often be confused; but, is eternally comforted by the etymology of my soul)………

I didn’t expect I’d write that last paragraph; but, I am a writer and, when my Muse grabs the wheel, she often takes me for some extremely surprising rides…

So…

All it will take to continue this discussion is a single comment from a reader…

Unless…

…that single comment is to suggest a different topic for conversation :-)
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The #Danger of Being a #Critic


I’m writing this post as much for myself as for anyone else… The #Danger of Being a #Critic

I’m a writer; though, I’ve never been a professional critic (but, my literary criticisms lie strewn across my writerly landscape…); and, of all things, I’ve been extremely critical of many critics…

Perhaps we can avoid the dangerous territory of definitions and test the more solid rock of etymologies of “critic”.

From the Oxford Dictionary of English:

origin late 16th century : from Latin criticus , from Greek kritikos, from kritēs ‘a judge ’, from krinein ‘ judge , decide ’.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1580s, “one who passes judgment,” from Middle French critique (14c.), from Latin criticus “a judge, literary critic,” from Greek kritikos “able to make judgments,” from krinein “to separate, decide” (from PIE root *krei- “to sieve,” thus “discriminate, distinguish”). Meaning “one who judges merits of books, plays, etc.” is from c. 1600. The English word always had overtones of “censurer, faultfinder.”

For those who wonder at my avoidance of dictionaries and my embrace of etymologies, ’tis true that most etymologies lie in dictionaries; and, the etymology of etymology is:

late 14c., ethimolegia “facts of the origin and development of a word,” from Old French etimologieethimologie (14c., Modern French étymologie), from Latin etymologia, from Greek etymologia “analysis of a word to find its true origin,” properly “study of the true sense (of a word),” with -logia “study of, a speaking of” (see -logy) + etymon “true sense,” neuter of etymos “true, real, actual,” related to eteos “true,” which perhaps is cognate with Sanskrit satyah, Gothic sunjis, Old English soð “true.” 

Anyone who’s just waded through all those blockquotes deserves to be given a charm against all critics…

So…

Last month, I read an article entitled, Why I Stopped Being a Critic.

A few excerpts:

“I grew up with a very critical father; and then, guess what, I became a critic myself. Not too surprising, right?”

Then, this brilliant revelation:

“…as the old Biblical adage goes, the son inherits the sins of the father, and I became a journalist and a literary critic. My job? Read books, find faults and pass judgment on them, in much the same way that my father and his father passed judgment. Ironic, right? In a way, I had become what I despised—a person who found fault with others and their works.”

So…

If you’re a writer (or, a serious reader), you may wonder what would become of the world if the realm of literature were to lose its critics…

A few more excerpts from that article:

“When I ‘panned’ a book—gave it a negative review—it reminded me of all the criticism I had withstood as a child. I thought about the author of the book reading my review, and how it had the potential to hurt that writer. All of this affected my spirit, and I began to think about finding another line of work.”

The author decided to write only positive reviews:

“Needless to say, my editors didn’t always agree. Any critic who only writes positive reviews doesn’t often develop a discerning reputation in our current culture, which delights in rampant and even vicious criticism. In fact, the most famous, celebrated and best-compensated literary critics today are often the savage attackers, the ones who write extremely negative and even cruel reviews.”

That author ends their article with this quote:

“One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task.”

~~~Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 169.

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Some Very Cool WebSites for #Readers & #Writers


Last month I published the post, What Are the “Best” WebSites for #Writers?

WebSites for Readers and Writers

Image Courtesy of Julie Elliott-Abshire ~ http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/je1196-37948

They were mostly about various aspects of the art and craft of writing.

The sites I’ll feature today are more closely concerned with the Words writers use and readers absorb

The first is World Wide Words.

This from the 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.”

Next is Wordwizard.

From their site:

“At Wordwizard we’re interested in English, in particular the origins of English words or phrases, and English usage. But we’re also happy to discuss any interesting aspect of the English language with like-minded people, and try to help anyone with a tricky letter or other writing project.”

And, now, Word Spy:

“…this is the central premise of Word Spy — that you can understand the culture by examining its new words, by going out to what one linguist calls the “vibrant edges” of language. There you see that new words both reflect and illuminate not only the subcultures that coin them, but also our culture as a whole. New words give us insight into the way things are even as they act as linguistic harbingers (or canaries in the cultural coal mine), giving us a glimpse of (or a warning about) what’s to come.”

And, one of my favorites, the Online Etymology Dictionary:

“This is a map of the wheel-ruts of modern English. Etymologies are not definitions; they’re explanations of what our words meant and how they sounded 600 or 2,000 years ago.”

Next is Wordnik:

“Wordnik is the world’s biggest online English, by number of words….Wordnik shows definitions from multiple sources, so you can see as many different takes on a word’s meaning as possible….We try to show as many real examples as possible for each word….Our word relationships include synonyms, hypernyms, hyponyms, words used in the same context, a reverse dictionary, and tags….There are more than 30,000 lists on Wordnik! Any logged-in Wordnik can make one (or more, or many, many more) lists.”

And, finally, The Sciolist—a links page (over 40) from the editor of the Online Etymology Dictionary.

ENJOY :-)
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Prelude To An Explanation of The Origin of Words…


I promised one of our regular readers that I’d explain how I think Real Words are produced in our minds and then begin the journey to other minds through what most people think are real words << those symbols that exist on screens and pages but aren’t Real Words

As fate would have it, my plan got altered–I needed to do some research and the tabs at the top of this blog needed reorganization.

So, as a beginning to tomorrow’s post about the journeys Real Words make, I should point out that I’m not going to be talking about the origins of English words in other and older languages–that’s something you can explore with this cool Online Etymology Dictionary.

A related site that includes a forum to discuss words and their histories is Wordwizard.

Also, for true word-lovers, there’s the links page on The Sciolist.

What I’ll be starting tomorrow is a description of the origin of words before they end up being in languages–the rock-bottom, primal dwelling place of Real Words

Since this exploration will touch on concepts like Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, you might want to read this short article about The Archetypal Patterns.

Now, I need to get prone and dream a bit
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