Words at Play

Académie Française

The French actually have an academy to help them keep their language pure.  I guess that seems a bit strange to me because English has borrowed words from every language on earth.  Nevertheless, the French are determined to fight a battle that has never been won because languages always change.  That’s what keeps them fresh and vibrant.  Consider two articles from The Guardian that describe the battle that the Académie Française is fighting.  The first is here and the second is here.

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Lederer

Ten percent of the people in the world are left-handed.  I’m one of them.  Too often to suit me, I encounter unflattering usages of the word “left.” For example, the Italian word for left is sinistra which sounds very much like the English word “sinister.”  In French the word for left is gauche, and it also carries the meaning of clumsy or awkward (especially in social situations).  You can make a faux pas by giving someone a “left-handed compliment,” and if you lack grace on the dance floor, you are said to have “two left feet.”  There are lots of other unflattering words and terms that contain insults to those of us who are in our right minds (think about it).  Richard Lederer discussed them in an article on his website, and I don’t think he left anything out.

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Carnival season ended at midnight on Mardi Gras (“fat Tuesday”) and we are now deep into Lent.  Where does the word “carnival” come from?  You will find the answer to that question and much, much more in a Panoply Media podcast featuring lexicographer Ben Zimmer.

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John McWhorter, a linguist I greatly respect, is mentioned in the above podcast.  He’s a very smart guy and a great communicator.  Watch the TED talk he gave in 2013 and you’ll agree.

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Fun with Words is a website that might amuse you.  You’ll learn a lot about words there and have access to lots of challenging word games.

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A Way with Words

A Way with Words is a public radio program about words.  The hosts, Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, have a vast store of information about word origins and word usage.  I find their banter a bit silly, but the information they provide during each podcast is remarkable.

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