Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wordsmithing

Ever notice how words change with time?

We still say the sun rises and sets, but we know we’re the ones moving around the sun and not the other way around

Or advertisements that tell you to ‘dial this number’. How many people do you know still own a rotary phone? We all know what is meant, but no one bothers to update the language. Maybe we should say “Touch this number” or “Enter these digits”. But that’s too technical sounding; just dial the phone, will ya?

If you think about it words are being created all the time. Should you come across a second hand Dictionary at a bargin price, look up the word “Glitch”, if it’s not in there, you don’t want that dictionary for anything more than a doorstop. The word came into use during the early space program and was in print-use in John Glenn's book We Seven in 1962.

Some newly created words only make sense because of our heavily computer reliant society. 20 years ago no one said things like ‘downloadable’ or ‘I ripped it from the web’ or ‘I’ll ghost it to my drive’. But then techspeak is probably in a class all by itself. Hey… when did ‘techspeak’ come into use? Well being in use is one thing, making it into Webster’s is something else entirely.


While reading Huckleberry Finn recently we enjoyed words like ‘truck’ and ‘poke’ as in, “Hey Finn, but all that truck in your poke and let’s get going.” Does anyone say truck or poke anymore? Maybe it’s a regional thing. Webster does say that poke is primarily southern or midland.


Many years ago we were hiking the trail toward Crater Lake in Oregon. My youngest son read a sign along the side of the trail and he read, “Shouting causes erosion.” Shouting causes erosion?? Are you sure? Well it turned out the sign said Short cutting Causes Erosion. Why he could read the word erosion at his young age and not short cutting, I don’t know to this day… but it stuck with us and when we hike together we still say – sometimes in hushed voices for affect, “Shouting causes erosion.”

Is this how new phrases get started, sometimes in error? Word myths. Like those that think Tee totaling is about Tea totaling, when the ‘T’ has to do with Temperance, as in abstaining from alcohol. There’s a whole book on the subject by David Wilson. I guess I’m not the only one that notices words and wonders about them.

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