WORDS! An Introduction
Difficult Words: 2010-2011
2008 Words IV
2008 Words III
2008 Words II
Greek and Latin Roots
Spellers Diary III (2007)
Spellers Diary II (2005-06)
Spellers Diary I (2005)
More Essays on Words
Even More Words
2006 Words (Beginning with some Latin maxims)
More 2006 Words
There are many Internet sites that deal with words. For example, if you wanted to check out rhetorical terms, you can go to the "Silva Rhetoricae," a web site set up by Professor Gideon Burton. Likewise, if you want to find interesting expositions of word and phrase origins, you can do no better than Michael Quinion's site called "World Wide Words." There are also email services where you can get your "word for a day" fix, either of words that you might use some day (Merriam-Webster puts out a "word for the day" page) or obscure words you probably will never use (it seems to me there are at least two or three "worthless word" sites). Then, finally, there are specialized dictionaries online, such as the Grandiloquent Dictionary or the Forthright's Phrontistery, and these will sate any person's thirst for word lists.
This page seeks to do what no other page does. In general what I do is to probe the Oxford English Dictionary (20 vols; 1987), stop on a word or related words, give partial definitions, muse on the meanings, reflect on the value and limitation of words, suggest new words, look at the irony of words and bring you into my thought process as I construct my mental reality with words. Expressing life through words is only one way to get at and exposit meaning in the universe, but it is a good way for many people to begin to understand reality. Actually, I think the study of words can help everyone deepen his or her appreciation of the world and, indeed, to look at the world in a different way than the world as it is transmitted in schools or colleges.
This last point is important for me. We live in a time (2004-2005) in America where education is important, but the major reason given in our culture for pursuing an education is to make more money and, thereby, to become more "successful." In our culture, the gaining of a degree is more important, by far, than the learning of any particular concepts, and the concepts learned are those which should help in the building of one's economic portfolio rather than in helping one understand the self and appreciate the variety and surprise of life. I am convinced that the real roots of creative thought lie in understanding the building blocks of our thoughts, which are the words we select in which to encase our ideas.
Let's begin, then, with lots of thinking about the words which we use, we don't use, we might use and we might have to work hard to use. The entries on the left are either roots or specific words that will start us on our journey together. I make no attempt, at this point, to be systematic about it. It is as if I am coming upon a new country, a new land, and am striking out with you across the terrain, making observations as I go and as we both try to understand this brave new world into which we have been placed.
After writing 66 essays on words, I see that many, though certainly not all, are indebted to four areas of inquiry especially important to me: the study of religion, the common law, architectural terms and the vocabulary of rhetoric. Many of the essays plunge deeply into Greek and Latin roots of words, and several of them invent new words or turns of phrases that I think are appropriate for today. Although I depend on the OED and other dicitonaries for definitional help, I only take them as the "first draft" of what really makes up the English language.
This "page" presents 66 essays, including this one, on words. By clicking on "More Essays on Words" , you are taken to another page that I am currently writing (beginning 10/17/04) on words.
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long