The Etymologicon

As read by Hugh Dennis on Radio 4! I caught the last episode over Christmas and it was funny, and available for 99p for my new kindle, so I bought The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth. Who also blogs over at The Inky Fool.

It is a series of brief chapters on the origin of words in English, where they come from and how they’re related. Or not, in the case of some sets of words that seem like they should be. It’s utterly delightful.

I’m a word nerd. I love words, I love finding out where words come from and tracing the changes in meaning. I love how versatile and adaptable the English language is. So, there’s pretty much no way I wasn’t going to like this book, but I found I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would.

It’s funny, engaging and covers words that don’t ordinarily appear in this sort of thing. I spent a lot of time smiling when I was reading it and laughed out loud several times. I highly recommend it!

I learnt a new word

I love new words. Especially when I’ve been looking for them for a long time. For ages I been trying to think of a way to describe those little phrases and saying that seem harmless but are actually harmful. They’re often said without intent, but tend to provoke defensiveness when challenged.

Lo and behold, someone has coined a word to describe these things: microagressions. And helpfully, there is a blog full of examples.

Online Etymology Dictionary

Under the category of things that I love is the Online Etymology Dictionary. It tells you where words come from and when they were first used. With words that have several senses, it lists when the word first acquired each meaning.

I always have in mind that Bernard Cornwell said he tried to only use words that would have been in use in the early 19th century when he was writing the Sharpe novels. Large parts of my work in progress are set in the 18th century and if a word sounds quite modern to me, then I’ll check it.

Besides, I just love words 🙂

Words: Ruth

I use the word ruthless quite a bit and the other day I was wondering whether there was such a word as ruth, so that one could be absent of it. In one of those marvellously serendipitous coincidences a couple of days later my Word of the Day was ‘ruth’.

It means compassion or pity; sorrow or grief; or contrition, remorse. It’s a lovely word that deserves more use.

Overused words and extending your vocabulary

Starting in the year I was born, Lake Superior State University has been compiling a list of words that should be banished from use. I feel there must be some sort of connection.

The 35th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness was published this year. There are a couple I hadn’t heard and a couple I’m not that bothered about and a couple I wholeheartedly support. The use of the word ‘czar’ for political appointees has irritated me for a while.

I’ve also been conscious of extreme overuse (by me as much as anyone) of the phrase ‘in these economic times’ since I’ve been back in employment. Every comment about planning, forecasting or analysing results has to be qualified by a reference to the fact that we’re in/have been in a recession. You know, in case we’d forgotten. It’s almost as if it can’t be taken for granted or we’re apologising for presenting abnormal figures. We need to constantly refer to it. Which makes me think that the recession doth protest too much. The alphabetic complete list is here.

Like BeckySharper over at the Pursuit of Harpyness in her blog about the list I have a tendency to overuse the word really. Or sometimes very.

What words do you overuse? I plan to make an ‘overused words’ list as I work on Sacrifice to help strengthen my writing. What would be on your list?