February 11, 2011

So when I was working on a boat this summer I read a book by David Crystal called Words, Words, Words. It was a funny, awesome, fantabulous book about being a word lover, and it came with a lot of cool word stories that my coworkers did not really appreciate hearing about. For instance, did you know that the words “science” and “nice” come from the same Indo-European root (skei- meaning “to cut”) which split into Latin words “scientia” (knowledge) and “nescire” (to not know) — this makes more sense when you know that “nice” meant foolish back then there in the olden days. And let’s not even talk about how cool it is that the two new words mean completely opposite things, or that this root also went on to be the base of words like “ski” and, even greater, “shit.” The point you’re supposed to get out of this anecdote is that I really like telling people about weird word factoids.

Today, during an unsuccessful trip to see Platform 9 3/4, my friends and I walked past the British Library which was showing a free exhibit about the evolution of the English language completely by chance. So instead of reading David Crystal and imagining how awesome he must be, I watched him read some of Beowulf in Old English (and saw what I am calling “a super old version” of the poem itself). I got to listen to him say a lot of things that I agree with about English and the internet. And I got to see quotation slips from James Murray’s Oxford English Dictionary (the picture is not of the ones I saw, but the ones on display at the OUP museum in Oxford). I might have fangirled a little bit?

But best of all? Here’s a good factoid I learned — the verb “to fart” was first recorded between 1225-1250 in a song called the “Cuckoo Song.” So far I am learning quite a lot of useful things on my study abroad program.

P.S. The word “glamour” comes directly from the word “grammar.” Turns out, Pink, that it’s super impossible to be too school for cool.

And you should probably check out a picture of James Murray’s beard.

Final note: I supposedly set this up so people could leave comments, but it’s not working. I think I’m just going to have you all send me quotation slips instead.

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