Dept. of Word Lists

Words About Words


You may remember an interview we did last year with Katie Raynolds, a remarkable 10th grader and dedicated linguaphile from Seattle, Washington. Well, Katie just spent a busy week with us here at the VT's New York office as our editorial intern! She graciously put together this word list:

I discovered when I searched through the Dept. of Word Lists that they're based on a subject a person is passionate about. So I thought, what is my passion? The answer clearly is: words! I found the following words that serve to describe other words, and I explain how we use them. For some I also included interesting stories about their origins.

Eponym, a name derived from the name of a person (real or imaginary). Examples: Achilles tendon (Achilles the Greek hero), Freudian slip (Sigmund Freud), Louisiana (King Louis XIV).

Onomatopoeia, words that imitate the sound that they denote. Examples: Pow! Bam! (a type of onomatopoeia that was made popular in comic books), chickadee, meow.

Sibilant, a consonant characterized by a hissing sound (like s or sh). The word sibilant comes from the Latin word sibil (hiss), which is actually onomatopoeia for the sounds that a snake makes. Example of sibilance: Sally sells sea shell by the sea shore.

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Topics: Vocabulary Words
Professor Anne Curzan of the University of Michigan studies the history of English. "I have a great job," she says, one where she challenges people to rethink their ideas of how language works. In addition to teaching, she co-edits the respected Journal of English Linguistics and is also on the usage panel of the The American Heritage Dictionary. We had a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation with her about the history of English, medieval language, gender in language and more. Our conversation was so intriguing we broke it into two parts. Here's part one: Continue reading...
Language authority Charles Harrington Elster is the "Grandiloquent Gumshoe," a word sleuth who gives no quarter to pompous usage and other tomfoolery. The author of The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations and What in the Word?, Charles is also a seasoned radio commentator and, as he says, "a fellow woolgatherer in the world of words." We had a lively discussion with him about language, usage -- and where he draws the line. Continue reading...
We're foraging in the Lounge this month and don't even need to visit the Language Larder to do so; all the food is at our fingertips. Continue reading...
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