Where do words come from?

Reply Wed 31 Mar, 2004 08:07 pm
Again, I must quote Bryson who asserts:

1) Words are created by error
The most famous of these perhaps is dord, which appeared in the 1934 Merriam-Webster International Dictionary as another word for "density." In fact, it was a misreading of the scribbled "D or d," meaning that "density" could be abbreviated either to a capital or lowercase letter. The people at Merriam-Webster quickly removed it, but not before it found its way into other dictionaries.
Many other words owe their existence to mishearings. Buttonhole was once buttonhold. Sweetheart was originally sweetard. Asparagus was for 200 years called sparrow-grass.

2) Words are adopted
Shampoo from India, chaparral from the Basques, caucus from the Algonquin Indians, ketchup from China, potato from Haiti.

3) Words are created
Shakespeare invented the following words: long-haired, lackluster, unqualitied, green-eyed, heartsick, and hot-blooded, along with approximately 1685 others. He also was first to coin the expressions, "lay it on with a trowel," "the last gasp," "off with his head," "tower of strength," "star-crossed lovers," "every mother's son," "love is blind," "elbow room," "a motley fool," to name a few. Isn't it amazing that we go around quoting Shakespeare and think nothing of it?

4) Words change by doing nothing
That is, the word stays the same but the meaning changes. Counterfeit once meant a legitimate copy.

Just found it interesting.

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Joe Nation
Reply Wed 31 Mar, 2004 08:50 pm
Like words...... go to Wordsmith.org You gotta subscribe but the words come everyday and the commentary is worthwhile reading.

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Joe Nation
Reply Wed 31 Mar, 2004 08:57 pm
For example: here's today's..... I swear it's just coincidence.....

bushwa (BUSH-wa) noun, also bushwah

Nonsense; bull.

[Of uncertain origin. Perhaps a mispronunciation of bourgeois.]

"The tone of his (Antonin Scalia's) remarks suggested that the court had
never before moved social policy along by taking into account changing
social mores. Which is, alas, bushwa."
Jon Carroll; His Kingdom For Two More Votes; San Francisco Chronicle;
Jun 25, 2002.

"I should've said that his good buddy's fury might be rooted in his own
insecurity; that beneath the bushwah about cool, chemistry and leadership
is another thin-skinned kid ..."
Scott Raab; Rodriguez and Jeter Let 7 Sentences Shake Their World;
New York Times; Feb 22, 2004.

From time to time I receive letters asking about a word featured in this
newsletter: "Didn't you just make that one up?" No, I didn't. All words
featured in AWAD are listed in at least one general-purpose dictionary.
However, someone did use these words for the first time. So someone did
coin them, though it's not always clear who that person was. On the other
hand, many words have clear lineages that tell us who fathered them. This
week we'll see examples of both kinds, all of them rather unusual words
that make us wonder "Did someone just make them up?"
-Anu Garg
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Reply Wed 31 Mar, 2004 09:03 pm
Joe, that wasn't today's!
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