I've had a life-long fascination with words; with their sounds, with their origins, with their meanings. It amazes me how few people ever take even a moment to think about the words they use every day, when doing so can add layers of appreciation and delight to their use.
I have, for example, been making a list of words which are, in effect, their own definition. Some are so elementary as to be fascinating when you stop to think about it: "fly," for example. A "fly" is what it is, and "fly" is what it does.
A great many two-and-three syllable words contain their definition in the individual words of which they are comprised, and mentally breaking them into their separate words gives a new appreciation for them and their meaning:
Many of the words we use have foreign roots which are self-descriptive in their original language:
parasol ("for sun")
mayday (mispronunciation of "m'aidez:" "help me")
Some common self-defining words are archaic and thus less obvious than others:
breakfast (refers to breaking the fast between dinner and dawn)
landlord (from the times when titled "lords" owned large amounts of land and had control over the people who lived on them)
The three primary American sports are self-descriptive, of course:
I'm particularly intrigued with words whose pronunciation has evolved to the point where it totally obscures the word's true meaning or origins. The despised racial epithet, "the N-word," is in fact a logical result of the combination of casual repetition and rapid pronunciation of the historically-acceptable word "Negro," which morphs into the "N-word."
Those of you who have followed my blogs for some time are already aware that when it comes to mispronunciation totally hijacking the meaning of a word, my personal cause celebre (literally, "famous case") is "President," and I have dragged out my soapbox innumerable times to point out that the correct pronunciation...and the true meaning...is "pre-ZI-dent": one who presides. Yet I'd bet that 9,999 out of 10,000 have never made this connection.
And so, as with so many things in life, I fight my own little battles and, as with so many of my little battles, lose them--though I have fun doing so.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 ).