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Tag Archives: word history

More Conversation about Word Histories . . .


Last Wednesday, the current discussion was begun with the post, Blog Conversation About Word Histories; and, because it received a comment from a reader, I received the impetus that keeps me from starting a different conversation :-) Conversation about word histories

That post actually received two comments; and, I’ll share them after I share just enough of what I said to give them a proper context:

“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 went on a bit about the idea that words have souls and their Etymologies (the histories of their meanings) are their “true inner meanings”…

Now, the first comment from the last part of the discussion:

“And there’s the the pulse of attitude, or vibration, especially with repeated sounds – words, phrases, called mantras in some cultures. They are loaded with usage and can have powerful effects.
“The word ‘soul’ has suffered in modern times, too imprecise, not verifiable by scientific methods – a shame because it sums up the essence of life and being.”

Apart from my feelings that science will one day find a way to “account” for the soul, it seems such a shame that more writers and readers don’t consider the etymologies of words…

Consider the definition of writing and this sentence:

“Susan was writing a letter to Tom in her mind that she wasn’t sure was something she could actually send him.”

We all know writing means something like, “mark (letters, words, or other symbols) on a surface, typically paper, with a pen, pencil, or similar implement.”

But, Susan was writing in her mind—marking words on the surface of ____________?

So, let’s consider the etymology (the soul) of “write” —> “carve, scratch, cut, paint, pull, tug, sketch, draw, design”

And, because Susan was somewhat torn about revealing her mental writing to Tom, could we rewrite that sentence as:

“Susan was carving out a space in her mind that she might not turn into a letter to Tom.”

Or…

“Susan’s mind was scratching out a plea to Tom; but, she didn’t have the will to actually paint the words…”

Perhaps those examples fall short of convincing anyone of the value of etymologies…

Good dictionaries do have appended etymologies; but, the use of a good Etymology Dictionary can be, in my estimation, a transformative experience…

So…

Consider the second comment from the previous discussion of word histories:

“I liked the part that words have souls, just as the 72 year old guy does, subjected to outside influences that continue long after the internal mechanisms for change and initial creation have succumbed to the resultant soul.”

Well…

At least one other soul likes the idea that words have souls…

What are Your feelings?

All it takes is one comment to keep this conversation going………
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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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Blog Conversation About “Genre” Writing . . .


Our last conversation was about “serious writing”, on May 2nd, 7th, and 9th… Genre Writing

It ended because the last post had no comments…

So, here I go again, starting up a new conversation :-)

I’ll begin with the word history of “Genre”:

1770, “particular style of art,” a French word in English (nativized from c. 1840), from French genre “kind, sort, style” (see gender (n.)). Used especially in French for “independent style.” In painting, as an adjective, “depicting scenes of ordinary life” (a domestic interior or village scene, as compared to landscapehistorical, etc.) from 1849.

If you did a Google Search on “Genre”, you’d have a merry time trying to sort out all the opinions…

Sure, authors often stay within certain well-established genres; like Murder Mystery, Police Procedural, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Alternative History, etc., etc., etc….

Still, my favorite fiction writer, C. J. Cherryh, usually wrote in either Sci-fi or Fantasy (though, she ably warped them at will…); plus she has a series, the Morgaine Cycle, that is both Fantasy and Sci-Fi…

So what is this slippery “quality” of fiction that has well-walled-off communities of writers and readers, as well as many examples of strange and wonderful hybrids of all types; and, certainly, some works that can’t be corralled into any specific category…

Being the kind of writer I am, I can easily go out on a literary limb and say: One could consider each author’s unique style their own particular “Niche” in the book world…

Oh, my, now I have to show you the word history for Niche:

1610s, “shallow recess in a wall,” from French niche “recess (for a dog), kennel” (14c.), perhaps from Italian nicchia “niche, nook,” from nicchio “seashell,” said by Klein and Barnhart to be probably from Latin mitulus “mussel,” but the change of -m- to -n- is not explained. Watkins suggests that the word is from an Old French noun derived from nichier “to nestle, nest, build a nest,” via Gallo-Roman *nidicare from Latin nidus “nest” (see nidus), but that has difficulties, too. Figurative sense is first recorded 1725. Biological use dates from 1927.

So, following my maverick logic, we could consider:

…the author’s “nook” of “style” for their writing; or, the “nest” of their “kind” of writing; or, their particular “sort” of “recess” in which their writing happens…

Too strange to consider…? Or, fruitful of thought…?

What are your thoughts and feelings about “Genre”…?

All it takes is one comment for this conversation to continue :-)
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Yet More Conversation About “Serious Writing” . . .


This particular discussion began a week ago with, Blog Conversation ~ “Serious Writing”, and progressed this past Monday with, Our Conversation About “Serious Writing” Continues…Serious writing

For those who are new here, our blog conversations are only on Monday’s and Wednesday’s, with valuable re-blogs on all other days of the week except Friday, when I publish new short Tales

However, 7 weeks from now, the Tales will end and our Conversations will be on three days of the week :-)

Plus, what makes a particular conversation continue is one or more readers leaving a comment about it; and, here’s Monday’s comment:

“Just to keep things going – can fiction ever be called ‘serious writing’? A story doesn’t have to be amusing to involve the reader but my fear is that if it is truly serious it becomes too self-absorbed and the reader is disenchanted. However, dissertations and articles ( and in my case, items for recording) can be serious and can inform as well as influence the audience’s thinking. I include historical articles, medical articles and philosophical articles. These are by nature what I would call serious. As for personal writing, such as biographies, they can be serious or entertaining and the latest fashion for victim writing is just one example.”

That particular reader, who happens to be an author from the U.K., certainly seems to believe that it would be nearly impossible for fiction to be “serious”; and, I must acknowledge her assigning that meaning to “serious”…

Yet, for the sake of further discussion, I’ll reproduce a bit of the first post in this series:

What’s your conception of serious writing?

Writing done with focus and determination?

Writing done for reasons you deem significant or weighty?

Writing aimed toward instilling memorable ideas in your reader’s mind?

Some other type of writing…?

To further aid our discussion (and, not for the first time…), here’s the word history of “serious:

mid-15c., “expressing earnest purpose or thought” (of persons), from Middle French sérieux “grave, earnest” (14c.), from Late Latin seriosus, from Latin serius “weighty, important, grave,” probably from a PIE root *sehro- “slow, heavy” (source also of Lithuanian sveriu, sverti “to weigh, lift,” svarus“heavy, weighty;” Old English swær “heavy,” German schwer “heavy,” Gothic swers “honored, esteemed,” literally “weighty”). As opposite of jesting, from 1712; as opposite of light (of music, theater, etc.), from 1762. Meaning “attended with danger” is from 1800.

And, I’ll bring this segment of our conversation to a close with a very “serious” thought of my own:

Our society is in dire need of “serious writing”; something deeper than political wrangling, something higher than glorified ranting…

A type of writing (fiction or not) that can raise hopes and inspire actions that are productively Thrilling

Care to share a comment to continue this conversation…?
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If you don’t see a way to comment, try at the upper right of the post :-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Visit The Story Bazaar
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Great Source for “Book Promotion” Ideas
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~ My Bio
Google Author Page

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send Me a short Voice Message :-)

“Wordnik Is Looking for a Million Missing Words—Can You Help?”


The title of this post was the subject line of an email I got yesterday. Wordnik

Wordnik is an online dictionary/thesaurus; and, if you didn’t know, a thesaurus is what shows you the synonyms of words. And, Wordnik also shows you a word’s etymology—its word-history

Or, in their own words, “…we’re the world’s biggest and friendliest English dictionary.”

Then, they told me:

“This is just a quick email to let you know that Wordnik launched a Kickstarter campaign today!”

Before I share about the Kickstarter campaign, I should let Wordnik tell you a bit more about itself:

“Every word at Wordnik gets its own full page, with as much data shown as possible: a standard definition (if one already exists), example sentences; synonyms, antonyms, and other related words; space for community-added tags, lists, and comments; images from Flickr and tweets from Twitter; and statistics on usage, including how many times a word has been favorited, listed, tagged, commented-upon, and, of course, whether or not it’s valid in Scrabble (and how many points it scores).”

And, here’s more about the Kickstarter campaign:

“We want to find a million words that haven’t been included in major English dictionaries and give them each a home on the Internet.

“At Wordnik we believe that every word of English deserves to be lookupable!

“The internet is, for all practical purposes, infinite. Wordnik can and should include every English word that’s ever been used.”

Why?

“Every word deserves a recorded place in our language’s history. We want to collect, preserve, and share every word of English, and provide a place where people can find, learn, annotate, comment on, and argue about every word.

“If you want to know more about a word—any word!—we want to help you find the information you need. If you’re curious about a word, why should you have to wait until someone else decides that a word is worth knowing?”

And, in case you need even more reason to go check out the Kickstarter campaign:

“We already have all these words in English! They exist right now in articles, books, blog posts, and even tweets. But they’ve never all been recorded in one place where they can be discovered and loved.

“Have you ever felt that the right word was out there, but you just couldn’t find it?

“Have you ever learned a weird word that made your whole day? Perhaps a word like thoil, which means ‘to be able to justify the expense of a purchase’? Or pandiculation, which means ‘yawning and stretching (as when first waking up)’?”

Here’s Wordnik’s Kickstarter link again :-)
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