last update: 14 July 2020
Vocabulary is all about words we use (or don't use) in English. Wikipedia is itself a massive online encyclopaedia and as such also a massive dictionary with lots of lists of English words.
With this set of webpages I wanted to have a place to collect all those words, etc. that I feel are interesting.
Sometime 'interesting' was just stuff I felt I should know as an adult, and/or stuff I feel I should try to remember as an ageing adult.
The starting point was stuff that would occasionally come up in TV quiz shows, to which I've added stuff I found quirky-interesting (even if it was not quiz-related).
So far my webpages look like this:-
Meanings of unusual words, which can be loanwords, blend words, calques, portmanteaus, the odd retronyms, the very occasional apocopation and buzzword, and just words that mean different things in American and English.
New Words - New Definitions, about the way ordinary words are given different, special meanings
Old Words - Old Meanings, about old words that have changed their meaning over the centuries
—— Old Jargon, Slang, and Cant
Latin in the English Language (the meaning of Latin and Greek prefixes, suffixes and phrases)
—— Interesting Latin Phrases
Glossary of Interesting Sporting Words
The Language of Geometry and Mathematics
The Language of Science and Technology
2020.05.07 Kelly Grovier, "The women who created a new language"
The word ‘frustrating’ itself, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, makes its first appearance in print in George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch, where she presciently describes “the hampering threadlike pressure of small social conditions, and their frustrating complexity”.
The suffix ‘-ness’ can transform an otherwise unremarkable word into something stranger and more affectingly abstract. The adjective ‘dark’, for example, on its face is frank and factual, whereas ‘darkness’ is more movingly evocative and poetic.
To demonstrate the profound depths of one’s connection with a place or feeling, simply fastening an ‘-r’ or an ‘-er’ to the end of a noun can confer a new existential title. No one remembers now who claimed for himself the broad domain of a ‘forest’ to become the original ‘forester’, or who it was that first bestowed the modest grandeur of ‘dweller’ onto an inhabitant of a simple ‘dwelling’. But as far as we are aware, it was Jane Austen who, in a letter she wrote in 1800, seized upon the alienness of a group of random gamblers who had gathered around a casino table, none belonging to the place itself and all having come from an undefined ‘outside’, to christen all such future strangers as ‘outsiders’.
Another way to reinvigorate a lacklustre lexicon is to pull together words that have never been tethered before – a little like constructing an impromptu meal from random reached-for tins dragged to light from the fumbled darkness of a kitchen cupboard. (Chutney pasta anyone? Anyone?) Charlotte Brontë was a genius of such curiously compelling compounds. To her it is likely we owe the origin of ‘self-doubt’ and ‘Wild-West’ as well as that activity to which many of us have found ourselves suddenly engaging with obsessive vigour: ‘spring-clean’, which Brontë niftily neologised in a letter she wrote in April 1848.
There is no quicker way to elevate a word into grandiloquence than to stick on to the end of it the suffix ‘-ism’, three small letters that can canonise seemingly throwaway syllables and transport them into the realm of respectable doctrine, system, or movement.