12 October 2008

Sunday Salon: Sesquipe-what?

In a nod to multitasking, I read my book while on the treadmill. Actually, I was using the book to distract me from the fact that I didn't want to be on the treadmill. I haven't exercised in months and I am trying to get back into the swing of it.

Anyway, the second essay in Ex Libris is about losing words. The author recounts the experience of reading a book from the 1920s and running across several words that she didn't know. Then she speculates whether we have smaller vocabularies than our forebears or whether our vocabularies are developed by the times we live in. I know that my vocabulary is a product of the times I live in. My vocabulary seems extensive until I try to read something like Wuthering Heights. The small dictionaries in my house couldn't even help me with some of the words I ran across in that book.

I agree with one of the author's friends who suggested that we are replacing our lost words with slang and internet lingo. The fact that "woot" was named as Merriam-Webster's word of 2007 is evidence to support that theory. Also, the internet and satellite TV have connected English-speaking countries more than ever before. My kids and I use words like "lush" and "posh" that we never would have used without exposure to Doctor Who and BBC America. However, I do agree with the author that many of the words we are gaining aren't as poetic as ones we are losing like "grimoire" and "adapertile".

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