Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Word Meanings

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.”


“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…


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.”


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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Do We Really Understand The Words We Use?

Last month I wrote a post called Is That Really A Word?? which included a great video from a woman who helps decide what dictionaries say.

And, while the average person may not consult a dictionary very often, writers certainly should—especially if they have the slightest doubt about meanings…

Naturally, if the writer has no doubt yet is misinformed about the meaning of certain words, they’re spreading confusion.

So, in the interests of clear meaning and thanks to an article on Lifehack about words used incorrectly, I give you, below, their list of 25 Common Words That You’ve Got Wrong. Do go to that link to read what many folks think these words mean vs what they actually mean—with good examples of use.

Heads-Up: a couple of the words in the list mean Nothing :-)

And, to soothe the brains of a few weary writers, here’s what they say at the end of the article:

“The English language is a finicky one but it’s also ever changing. Words are updated and definitions change. New words are added every year and some are retired. Very few people will ever master the entire language and the rest of us will just have to do the best we can!”

Which of these words do you get wrong?


























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How Do Words Get Into A Dictionary?

I subscribe to the Oxford Dictionary Pro but their free online edition of the Oxford Dictionary is good, too.

Naturally, the dictionary is managed by the University of Oxford—“It is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the second-oldest surviving university in the world.”

Oxford actually has 58 different services you can subscribe to

But back to the topic in the title—How Do Words Get Into A Dictionary?

The month of February ( 2013 ) saw these new entries in the Oxford Dictionary:

The words are links to the Oxford Definitions…

Baggy Green
cane corso
friend zone
hump day
metabolic syndrome
range anxiety
social sharing
tray bake

So, how many of those entries did you already know?

Did you take any of the links to check out Oxford’s definitions?


Here’s how the Oxford chooses new words—I’m sure other dictionaries follow similar procedures :-)
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Book > Brain > Heart ~ Literary Magic . . .

Ever had someone tell you that your response to an event is more important than the event itself—that, essentially, we co-create the world of reality and our interpretation of things is the prime mover of meaning?

Consider—folks’ responses to the death of a loved one shows a range of reaction that spans states of being that include: the urge to commit suicide to join them; massive depression that ruins the rest of their lives; passage through the “normal” stages of grief; and, the reaction of individuals who, though grieving for themselves, are joyful their loved one has gone to a “better place”

Certainly, the old saw, Think Positive, has many and varied possible manifestations; and, even the worst events can bear a load of wisdom that enriches our lives.

So, perhaps you’re wondering if this blog is still about Reading, Writing, and Publishing? :-)

Let me reassure you:

Ever had a book’s story seem more real than everyday life?

Ever had fiction teach you a life lesson in three days that had eluded you for years?

If so, you’ve proven that your interior sense of meaning has creative power that can shape the outer, “real” world

The Book > Brain > Heart formula is the Reading journey.

Writers use the formula, Heart > Brain > Book.

And, “Heart”, in this context, can include realms that others refer to as psychological and metaphysical.

The Brain part of those formulas is worth exploring more deeply, too.

Luckily, Annie Murphy Paul wrote an opinion-piece for The New York Times called, Your Brain on Fiction.

Here are a few excerpts to help you decide to read the full article:

“Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.”

“The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.”

“These findings will affirm the experience of readers who have felt illuminated and instructed by a novel….Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined.”

So, do you believe reading fiction can help you solve life-problems?

Many writers admit that writing fiction has helped them come to grips with reality

Are you intrigued with the idea that fiction might be able to improve your interpretation of life-experience?

Naturally, which fiction you choose to read is a crucial factor in how the formula works—the wrong fiction could mess you up, eh?

Do you think writing the wrong kind of fiction can mess up a writer’s life?

Have any personal insights about Literary Magic you’d like to share in the Comments?
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