Musings on words and English

English is a rich and beautiful language and has such a selection of fabulous words and yet we use so few of them in everyday life. Many moons ago when I was a pre-Menopausal Miss I really enjoyed playing with words and language. Purposely rearranging sentence structures, interposing obscure words, stretching the rules, and it was a game. I was interacting with people that ‘got it’, that knew I was playing with language. Then the glory days of being a student were over and I entered the real world of commerce and suddenly I could no longer play those games because many of those I worked with did not get it, or perhaps just assumed I was odd. Sadly the instances of conversing with those that even had a reasonable vocabulary began to diminish and so using an interesting range of words became limited. Using words that I thought of as just a part of everyday English drew frowns and glazed looks. Of course, I am a reader and so there was always an escape to the world of books and nourishment was to be found there.   

Words should taste good, they should feel nice on the tongue and flavour our speech. For me, that is the joy of books, well written ones become a form of nourishment and you have to go back and sample them again and again. I am a hoarder of great lines and excerpts from books. Fortunately with the advent of Kindle I can just make a note as I read the words, lines, sentences, and passages that speak to me for some reason of other. Sometimes it’s because it just a clever use of a word or phrase, sometimes because the picture it paints is so beautiful and I want to go back an revisit the sight, and in many instances it’s because the words taste so good, they have a special texture and delight when said aloud.

I think that one of the joys about having become involved in MOOCs is the interaction that goes on with others that have the same passion for words that I do. Of course, many of those on my most recent MOOC are authors and so words are their tools of trade and they know how to use them well. I am but a reader, so my knowledge, which here to fore I had thought extensive, is, I realise, much more limited than I had thought, and I am sadly out of practise. But the pleasure in rediscovering the games one can play with English and the pleasures to be had in using and writing beautiful words is reasserting itself again.

There are many books about English words and phrases, I have a lovely collection of really interesting ramblings about English and language written by some very clever people but I have some firm favourites too.

If you haven’t sampled the delights of  Mark Forsyth’s blog, The Inky Fool, you should do yourself a favour and dip in. He discusses, no educates us in, the origin of words, the connections between words and delves into the words we no longer use. But it’s not a dry old presentation of English, it’s a witty, clever, and often hilariously funny, mad dash through the English language. It ducks and dives and twists and turns in the most unexpected manner and will leave you breathless with laughter as he makes the most interesting connections.

He has published a number of books based on his blog, The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language and The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language are the two I have delved into on too many occasions to recall. I was so enthralled and delighted with them that I actually got the audio version as well so that I could listen when I needed to do other things. He has some samples of the books on his blog so you can try before you buy if you are not already hooked with what he has to say in his regular posts. I love them and if you love words I am sure you will too.

2 thoughts on “Musings on words and English

  1. I get it too. I love the way some writers prose transports you to the imagined/real – like Kate Grenville you can smell the gum trees, feel the river.

    • Ms B! You have to go and have a look at the MOOC I’m doing called Plagues, Witches & War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction (there is a link). You would love it – it’s free! Great books to read, links to places to find even more great books to read, and incredible interaction with amazing people – like me!

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