Category Archives: Language

Words, Words and More Words

Words

Isaac Kaufmann Funk ( 1839 –  1912) was an American Lutheran minister, editor, lexicographer, publisher, and spelling reformer.    He is most well known for  The Standard Dictionary of the English Language published in 1893.   We are told via Wikipedia that “He worked with a team of more than 740 people.  His aim was to provide essential information thoroughly and simply at the same time. In order to achieve this he placed current meanings first, archaic meanings second, and etymologies last. ”

We know that he collaborated with his classmate, Adam Willis Wagnalls and the I K Funk company was renamed Funk and Wagnalls and the encyclopedia was renamed Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Encyclopedia in 1931.  It was later renamed New Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, Universal Standard Encyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls Standard Reference Encyclopedia, and Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia.quoted the best 10 words in the English language.as :

I read somewhere (?) that Isaac Funk considered the following the best ten words in the English language:

  • Mist
  • Hush
  • Luminous
  • Murmuring
  • Dawn
  • Chimes
  • Lullaby
  • Melody
  • Tranquil
  • Golden

These are in no particular order and I wonder how he arrived at this list of ten.  Certainly they are all gentle words with no harsh sounds or undertones.  Was he a gentle man looking to find equally gentle words?  I wonder

My choice of 10 words would be (again in no particular order):

  • Love
  • Gentle
  • Friendship
  • Family
  • Giving
  • Safety
  • Tranquil
  • Tenderness
  • Acceptance
  • Delight

What would your words be.  It’s fun to limit the choice to only 10.  Of course, there are many, many other words I could have chosen.  Why did I choose these?  They are all gentle words and maybe reflect where I am in my life’s journey now.

“But now the days grow short
I’m in the autumn of the year
And I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs
and it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year”
As sung by Frank Sinatra – It Was a Very Good Year.

And for me, they have mostly been very good years!

And a final word today from the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 BCE – 270 BCE)

“It is impossible to live a pleasant life without
living wisely and well and justly.
And it is impossible to live wisely and well
and justly without living a pleasant life.” 

Some recent posts on words –

Political Correctness

No Political Correctness sign

I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism, and it sends shivers down the spine of my generation who went to war against fascism.
P. D. James

Is Political Correctness as rampant where you live as it is here in Godzone/Aotearoa?  We are constantly worried here in case we step on somebody’s toes or offend somebody in some way, and often it causes us to do nothing.  Note – the use of the word “us” here is a generic term for both our politicians and the general hoi polloi.

To my mind PC as used by our politicians, the media and those who deem themselves to be in charge of our actions (and maybe even our thoughts),  is tyranny.  And the rationale of this tyranny?  It appears to be to prevent people being offended by what is said or done; to prevent compel each of us to avoid using words that may upset others, including  women, fat people, small or tall people,homosexuals, etc etc.

Well I would not knowingly offend any of these people but feel that this has gone too far.  Political Correctness is in my view,  a sophisticated form of censorship that affects all of us and creeps unasked into our lives.  The values and rules of my parents’ generation appear to be thrown out with the bath water and what is moving in to take their place?  Political Correctness.

I decided to investigate the origins or this phenomenon and see if I could find out the reason for its introduction into our lives.  I found an explanation on this site.  Here I read that “It  was developed at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany, which was founded in 1923 and came to be known as the “Frankfurt School.” It was a group of thinkers who pulled together to find a solution to the biggest problem facing the implementers of communism in Russia.

The problem?  Why wasn’t communism spreading?  Their answer?  Because Western Civilization was in its way.”  It went on to say

“What was the problem with Western Civilization? Its belief in the individual, that an individual could develop valid ideas. At the root of communism was the theory that all valid ideas come from the effect of the social group of the masses. The individual is nothing.”

And so Political Correctness was introduced to undermine Western Civilisations’  foundations by incessantly and insidiously attacking the rights of the individuals.   Well, that explains it then.

And today after receiving this email from a friend, I decided to air my concernsobjections about and to this trend.  See what you think?

“There’s an annual contest at the University of Arkansas calling for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term. This year’s term was: “Political Correctness.” The winning student wrote:

“Political correctness is a doctrine — fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rapidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media — which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end.”

 Well that says it all for me anyway.  What do you think?

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
Thomas Jefferson

Playing with words again

I have said before that I like playing with words.  I awoke early this morning, too early to get up and start the day, so I started to read a thriller I picked up at the library yesterday.  It is called  “Trigger City” by Sean Chercover and I came across this wonderful example of alliteration :

“Flower-boxes displayed dying dwarf dahlias in differing degrees of decay”

Isn’t that wonderful.  This was dropped into the middle of a paragraph describing the outward appearance of a property.  I am sure it wasn’t put there without a lot of thought but nowhere else in the book could I find any alliteration.

Alliteration is defined as “the repetition of the leading consonant sound in each word throughout a sentence or a phrase. Alliteration is commonly used in poetry and tongue twisters. It is also sometimes used in advertising taglines and business names to make them more memorable.” according to wiki-answers and “the use of the same consonant or vowel at the beginning of each word” according to my Collins Dictionary which goes on to give the example of “round the rocks the ragged rascal ran”  Alliteration in literature, prose or poetry is used mainly to introduce style and make the piece of writing more memorable.

So consider these examples :

  • I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
    When far away an interrupted cry
    Came over houses from another street

    Robert Frost – Acquainted with the Night
  • Once upon a midnight dreary, while
    I pondered, weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

    Edgar Alan Poe – The Raven
  • “So we beat on, boats against the current,
    borne back ceaselessly into the past.

    F Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
  • For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
    Lay like a load on my weary eye,
    And the dead were at my feet.

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge – the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
  • Perhaps to-morrow you will see her sail.
    She sails at sunrise:
    John Masefield – The Wanderer
  • Silence surged softly backwards and
    forests ferny floor
    The Listeners – Walter De La Mare

And of course there are many instances of alliteration used in advertising:

  • Jaguar – Don’t dream it; drive it
  • Greyhound Going Great
  • Landrover – The best four by four by far

And Brand Names:

  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Pay Pal
  • Best Buy
  • Borders Books
  • Corporate Caterers
  • Perfect Party Planners
  • Absolute Accountants
  • Coca Cola

And people’s names

  • Ronald Regan
  • Jesse James
  • Jesse Jackson
  • Michael Moore
  • William Wordsworth
  • Mickey Mouse &
  • Donald Duck

The other form of alliteration is sound, where the words have the same sounding beginnings but are not spelled in the same way

  • Funny phone
  • Quality kebabs – sorry can’t think of any others.  Can you?

And from the Wizard of Oz:

“Step forward, Tin Man. You dare to come to me for a heart, do you? You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk…And you, Scarecrow, have the effrontery to ask for a brain! You billowing bale of bovine fodder!”

On the way to Oz

This game could go on and on ad infinitum.  Until I fall fast asleep on my feet.