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Pedants' corner

Just wondering

(87 Posts)
soontobe Mon 13-Jul-15 15:45:34


Gofer I would have thought originally came from go for...?
And freebie from free something or other?

Both are "made up" words?

I was just wondering whether pedants mind, and if they do, do they just accept once a word has entered a dictionary.

FarNorth Tue 28-Jul-15 10:05:21

Shakespeare made up hundreds of words. So did Thomas Carlyle.

absent Tue 28-Jul-15 10:11:51

We use lots of "made-up" words, some recent such as stagflation and staycation, some so generally accepted that they seem to have been around forever, such as streamline. Ultimately, all words must have been made up at some time. Furthermore, they go in and out of fashion and quite often change their meanings over time. The flexibility and innovation are among the great joys of the English language.

soontobe Tue 28-Jul-15 10:44:35

With freebie, I just thought it was slang.

Gofer, I didnt realise was a "proper" word. And for some reason I thought it was spelt gopher.

I came across both words in the same word puzzle recently.

I had no idea that authors made up words either.

Ana Tue 28-Jul-15 10:47:09

You do know that Google is your friend, don't you soontobe? smile

FarNorth Tue 28-Jul-15 10:47:35

Gopher is an animal, so I guess it's a witty play on words. smile

Bellanonna Tue 28-Jul-15 10:54:15

Yes, I have to accept,but not necessarily use them. I quite like freebie and bogof and lots of other words now in common parlance which all add up to making our lovely language the colourful one that it is. I don't like commercial buzzwords and never say you guys, even to males. I do often say hi to people i know but on the whole dislike americanisms.

soontobe Tue 28-Jul-15 11:22:21

Yes, but Google is so soulless Ana smile
Plus actually, I do forget to look sometimes.

soontobe Tue 28-Jul-15 11:25:33

I look up definitions of words sometimes.
I never thought to look up origins of words. I didnt think that such a thing existed.

mcem Tue 28-Jul-15 11:45:06

Do you mean you've never wondered about the origins of words? Never thought about
the similar elements in words - like telephone and television?
I could go on but I'm just surprised by your statement, if I interpret it correctly, that you haven't ever noticed that most dictionaries give information about a word's derivation after the definition of its meaning and its pronunciation?

SineDie Tue 28-Jul-15 11:58:08

It's never to late to learn.

soontobe Tue 28-Jul-15 12:00:43

I meant that I didnt think that origins of words existed as such a thing on Google.

And no to all your post.

I didnt actually think that the origins of most words were actually traceable.
I just thought they came into being organically, and eventually made their way into a dictionary.

soontobe Tue 28-Jul-15 12:01:41

post to mcem.

SineDie, I agree.
I will take far more notice in future.

Alea Tue 28-Jul-15 12:03:09

The origins of words are fascinating and if more people paid any attention to the origin we wouldn't get some of the truly appalling malapropisms (see what I did there?) which we see nowadays!

Alea Tue 28-Jul-15 12:08:16

I think I have my Scottish primary school and my late father who was a writer to thank for my interest in language, we used to be set exercises like -tele vision, telephone, tele kinesis, telegraph -spot the link!

FarNorth Tue 28-Jul-15 12:28:43

Thanks to Alea, I just googled malapropism and I learned :

It was reported in New Scientist that an office worker had described a colleague as "a vast suppository of information" (i.e., repository or depository). The worker then apologised for his "Miss-Marple-ism" (i.e. malapropism).[21] New Scientist noted this as possibly the first time anyone had uttered a malapropism for the word malapropism itself.

mcem Tue 28-Jul-15 13:23:28

Spot on alea!
In my case it was Scottish primary school plus teacher mother plus natural curiosity. And yes I can spot the link ( but will resist the temptation to explain).

I find a basic familiarity with words' origins is invaluable. If I come across an unfamiliar word I can use this, along with the word's context to figure out its meaning.

I enjoy the fact that new words happen but am happy to acquire existing ones to extend my own vocabulary.

My DCs, DGCs and pupils have all enjoyed 'word of the day' quizzes!

janerowena Tue 28-Jul-15 14:11:25

I did a course on the origins of words years ago, it was fascinating to see which had greek origins, which had latin. It's like a huge family tree of words all spreading back over the centuries.

AshTree Tue 28-Jul-15 14:59:29

For all those who enjoy reading about how words come into being, I cannot recommend this book highly enough - The Etymologicon

It really is the most fascinating book. I have it on my Kindle and am always dipping into it - I've probably read it several times, but not necessarily from cover to cover!

Nelliemoser Tue 28-Jul-15 15:38:50

mcem My natural curiosity and some inspiring teachers is one of the reasons I waste spend so much time Googling.

I have picked up bits of Latin from singing various classic religious texts stuff in choir. You start seeing the connections in the words you are singing that have similar contexts in English usage. You can get lightbulb moments.
Such as "Qui sedes ad dexteram partris." Sedes is, sits or sitting. Sedentary means sitting about etc etc.

I got the sense of some italian like that the other day. I doubt if the tenses were right but you get the gist of what is being said.

annodomini Tue 28-Jul-15 15:54:56

AshTree I also enjoy dipping into The Etymologicon. I've always loved words and their origins. My dad had a book called 'The Loom of Language' which was all about groups of languages and how words within a group are related - sound shifts (eg pater, vater, father) and so on. I devoured that book from cover to cover. It still exists in revised (several times) forms. My 12-year-old GD is also fascinated by words and languages so I'm on the lookout for something appropriate for her. It helped my vocabulary to learn Latin and, later, Greek up to first year at Uni, though I dropped them in favour of English. No wonder I'm at home in Pedants' Corner.

Bellanonna Tue 28-Jul-15 16:45:47

AshTree - I wish I'd known of that book. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm fascinated by etymology. As someone earlier said, you can often work out a word's provenance. Italian helps me and also German, which I'm currently studying, as it's so interesting so see how that part of our language was formed. I've sometimes read a paragraph and totted up the words of Latin ( Norman) origin, and the German or Scandinavian ones. Nerd or what? It's usually while waiting for someone to ring back. The non Latin ones win. I think we'd need to have a knowledge of Sanskrit though to really go back to origins?
Soontobe - maybe you just accept words without curiosity and have other interests, but if you are at all curious you can just input a word and add origin, or something like that? Whole new world. You did begin the thread so I take it you do have an interest in words?

Alea Tue 28-Jul-15 16:51:37

Oh Far North I tried to read your New Scientist post out to DH. But got such a fit if the giggles that my coffee nearly went over my iPad! gringrin

annodomini Tue 28-Jul-15 17:11:54

I'm chuckling quietly to myself too, FarNorth.

mcem Tue 28-Jul-15 19:19:07

I've always thought that the study of Latin promoted interest in etymology and find it strange that someone who has studied it doesn't have that curiosity!