I don’t casually browse dictionaries as often as I once did, but I’m still thrilled at moment of serendipity, when the dictionary yields a new word and distracts me from what I was supposed to be doing.
Today, I discovered wordhoard, a store of words and, therefore, the vocabulary of a person, group of people or an entire language. It may be an obvious compound, but it existed (without the a) in Old English.
The first time someone wrote luxurious, in a story called Arthur and Merlin, he meant lascivious, lecherous or unchaste, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. That was around 1330. Arthur and Merlin, by the way, also gives us the first recorded use of the insult biche-sone, or son of a bitch.
My British kin sniff at the American use of soccer for football, and so I am quick to point out the British origin of the word. Purists will always express impatience with those who don’t keep up with the lingo, but there is nothing inherently wrong with the wonderful word soccer.
I have a habit of hearing words in conversation that strike me as nonstandard and then losing the run of conversation while I mull things over in my head. Occupational hazard, I suppose. Digitalization was the most recent word to throw me off as I thought about the differences and commonalities of computer code and fingers and obsolete heart medication.
After author, poet, actor, singer, speaker, educator, activist and editor Maya Angelou died Wednesday at 86, one of the more obvious adjectives used to describe her was phenomenal. One of her many poems was Phenomenal Womanfrom 1978:
Now you understand Just why my head’s not bowed. I don’t shout or jump about Or have to talk real loud. …
The New York Public Library, a feat of architecture and public access, was dedicated on May 23, 1911. It was exactly 16 years after the Astor and Lenox libraries agreed to combine with the Tilden Trust to create a truly “free library and reading room” as envisioned by former governor Samuel Tilden when he made his $2.4 million bequest. On May 24, the day after the dedication, the NYPL opened to the public. Between 30,000 and 50,000 people visited on that first day.
A friend sent me a note about my visit to Cayo Oeste, using a Spanish translation for Key West. I got a lot of notes about Key West for this trip and many instructions on what spot to visit in my travels.
The original Spanish, though, was Cayo Hueso, or Bone Key, a name still found on some island businesses. The English key for a low-lying barrier island probably comes from cayo, influenced by quay, which is related to an earlier word key.
The boy went to a local production of Tommy a few nights ago and his mother and I went to the Alternative Fashion Show here in Columbus. I explained to him that made me much more a hipster than some guy going to a rock opera almost as old as his dad.
With 12 brave participants, 40 observers, over 130 words, and almost three dozen thrilling rounds of spelling under pressure, the American Copy Editors Society spelling bee was a fun kickoff to the ACES conference in Vegas Wednesday night.
Crevasse is clearly a French word that means, pretty much, a big crevice. We’re most likely to find a crevasse in a glacier, because that’s where it gained a foothold in English.
Both words come from the word crevace, which English borrowed from French in the 14th century. Crevace became crevice in English and crevasse in French. Climbers used the French word as they hiked around Switzerland, avoiding deep fissures and chasms in the Alpine ice.