Besides writing the monthly Language Lounge column, distinguished lexicographer Orin Hargraves creates our unique "themed" Words of the Day. Subscriber Marije Martijn recently sent us this comment on the word "Stipple," which ran on July 24th:
I just had to be my pedantic self and comment on the word of the day: if you want to thank someone for the root "stip" of your verb 'to stipple', you should thank the Dutch. I admit, there is also a German word "Stipp," but "stip" is a Dutch word. There is even a Dutch verb, "stippelen," i.e. "to dot." I don't know of a German verb like that. But then, I am not German, so there may very well be such a verb. Best wishes, MarijeContinue reading...
When we ran a post called "Short Words Are Best" a few weeks ago, subscribers jammed our Inbox with comments. One in particular caught our attention:
"Sure, short words are more readable, but what about the joy that comes from solving the innermost puzzle of a long word? For a linguaphile like me, the purest ecstasy arises from finding the Latin or Greek roots in a word, putting them together, and discovering the story of a word. For example, the word "peninsula" comes from "paene" and "insula," which mean "almost" and "island," respectively. So the word peninsula literally means "almost island." Sure, it's a long word, and some students may not like to read it, but the pleasure of the shape of the word and the story of its creation makes reading it worth the while."
We appreciated this spirited defense of long words, plus we noticed the word "students" in the comment. So we emailed this person, a teacher obviously, to find out more about how she teaches language. Well, maybe not so obvious. Here was the reply:
"You just made my day! I'm no English teacher -- I'm a high school freshman!"Continue reading...
When spell-check can't help you: The Scripps National Spelling Bee publishes a consolidated list of 23,413 unique words. Here are a few, ahem, vexing examples. Okay, spellers -- on your mark, get set, go:
Adapted from "Bird Words," contributed by subscriber Ruth Beasley. Ruth writes about birds on her website Learning the Birds. She can also be heard on High Plains Public Radio , her local NPR affiliate in Garden City, Kansas.
A large part of learning the birds is the attempt to gain fluency in a new language. Bird words, I call 'em. Memorable words like melanistic, pileated, accipiter, and axillar -- none my spell-checker recognizes. These fine words permeate the bird books, meticulously staking out descriptive territory.
Birders are people for whom subtle differences are carefully noted, and it's important to get the lingo right. Colors are precise, with shades of tawny, bay, cinnamon, ivory, chestnut, and buff. I'm still figuring out the difference between sooty and slatey, mottled and splotched.Continue reading...
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