Writers love words and language. We sift through our techno-color brains for ways to describe scenes, landscapes, people and objects. We love doing this and are unable to avoid adding linguistic wallpaper to everyday moments. A walk in the park becomes: an afternoon amble along mossy strewn paths, lined with conifers and bell-dinging cyclists who swerve abruptly around dog poop and people lacking navigational courtesy. Throw in a few descriptive labels of strawberry chiffon sunsets and hawkish, leather clad villains sitting on scarred benches and now you have a ‘walk in the park’.
But the fascination doesn’t end there. Words and language are the tools of the trade for writers, as we all know. The other day, I stumbled across websites offering up amazing facts of the history of language. Forget YouTube videos of laughing kittens; my attention was instantly diverted to these gift-laden lists. For starters, I learned no word exists in German for innocent; no word in Hebrew for fiction and no word in Japanese for I (for disbelievers, I included sources at the end of this post).
Language is powerful, and while all species have forms of communication, humans speak with spectacular detail and inference. In addition to our thumbs and our capacity for cruelty, I suppose it is the complexities of our languages separating us from different animals. With words, we plead, insult, explain, admonish and teach. There are infinite ways of expressing our deepest emotions. Joyously, words can also deliver humor when actions and facial expressions cannot. The French take it to an even higher level. Did you know, for instance, the French assign titles to individuals who perform various tricks, such as those who . . . suffer flatulence. Mais oui, I’m serious. Culture influences language, for better or worse.
Language, since the invention of the printing press, has traveled the globe, igniting children’s and adult’s imaginations with classic tales of good and evil. With all of this newfound knowledge, I just couldn’t resist sharing it with you. I’ve assembled a few interesting trivia anecdotes about language and its influence on literature.
1. The most widely published book, aside from the Bible, is Pinocchio. Now before you gasp in mock surprise, remember, there are similar themes between the two.
2. Shakespeare invented over 1,700 words, including excellent, critical and frugal. Sheesh. That’s ridonkulous. There. I just made up my own word, but not sure it will gain as much popularity.
3. “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is a pangram, containing all 26 letters of the English alphabet and used in typing tests. Try sharing that at your next cocktail party. I’m sure everyone will think you’re quite a genius—if your guests are English professors over ninety, I suppose.
4. A palindrome is a word reading the same from either direction (kayak, dad, level). I wouldn’t recommend sharing that at a cocktail party. People might get confused.
5. The little dot hovering above a lowercase ‘j’ and ‘i’ is called . . . a ‘tittle‘. I wonder how they came up with that one . . .
6. There are 12 imaginary languages in the movie Lord of The Rings. I won’t divulge how many imaginary languages, and words, I have in my head. People in white coats frighten me a bit.
7. The word ‘infant’ is a Latin word (infans), meaning “unable to speak”. So when my companions begin drinking too much, I will say to them: “Alas, you’re not drunk! You’re an infant!”
8. Canada is a First Nations (we don’t use the term Indian) word, meaning ‘big village’. I wonder what the First Nations words for really, really, big, cold village are?
9. Dr. Seuss invented the word ‘nerd’. Okay. I have no doubt he did. With an imagination such as his, that list is probably longer. I’m not jealous. I invented the word ridonkulous after all.
10. The name ‘Wendy’ was invented during the creation of the story Peter Pan. Now, that’s cool. Tell this to a co-worker or anyone named Wendy, and see their reaction. They’ll probably arch their eyebrows, furl their lips and scowl at you, before replying, “I’m named after my aunt.”
11. The word ‘mortgage’ originates from a French law term: “death pledge”. That pretty much sums it up. Good visuals there.
12. The world’s most translated author is Agatha Christie. So it seems mystery is not Lost in Translation.
13. The word ‘romance’ hails from Vulgar Latin ‘romanice’. Ugh. Really? I was hoping for a florid, sensual explanation.
14. Many words stem from Latin, including ‘unio’ which became ‘large pearl’. Since when does a large pearl resemble an onion?
15. The Oxford English Corpus dictionary contains over 2 billion words, although most people use an average of only 50,000 words. So the next time you’re struggling to write that chapter, don’t fret! You have at least 1 and a half billion words to learn.
Quite the list. But we all know language is not static; it changes frequently. By the hour it would seem these days. As languages evolve, some spreading, others becoming extinct, dictionaries undergo alterations to include new, popular terms and omit obsolete ones. Twitter, with its use of the infamous hash tags, has morphed our vernacular into symbols and terse phrases. The meaning almost becomes less important than the number of characters (140). Facebook is full of emoticons, and messages are becoming instant messages, fast and dried, lunch-time soup. Sometimes, it’s nice to flop down and get lost in a good ol’ book, and if you’re hankering for good ol’ love, there’s no shortage of traditional ways to say, simply, “I love you.” Google ’99 phrases to say I love you’ and you’ll see what I mean.
They say if we were able to time-travel back five hundred years, English speaking people would not be understood by, nor understand other English speaking people. Earth is the only planet not named after a Greek god. I wonder how our planet, our language, and how we describe love will change in the next few hundred years? #seekinglove #originalDNA #Skills:seeLabNo:34421