Friday, 25 July 2008

A.W.A.D. - Meta-words

"So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with," wrote philosopher John Locke (1632-1704).

While there's truth in Locke's assertion, it's possible to overcome the difficulty to some extent. We construct small unambiguous building blocks, define them as precisely as we can, and then put them to work for bigger purposes (though in some languages, such as German, we often get carried away).

Fortunately, the English language abounds in words. And there are plenty of terms to describe these words themselves. This week we'll look at some of these meta-words or words about words and language.

grammatolatry
PRONUNCIATION: (gram-uh-TOL-uh-tree)
MEANING: noun: The worship of words: regard for the letter while ignoring the spirit of something.

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek gramma (letter) + -latry (worship).

catachresis
PRONUNCIATION: (kat-uh-KREE-sis)
MEANING: noun: The misuse of words.

ETYMOLOGY: Here's a catchall word for all those mixed metaphors, malapropisms, and bushisms. It derives via Latin from Greek katakhresthai (to misuse).

parapraxis
PRONUNCIATION: (par-uh-PRAK-sis)
MEANING:noun: A slip of the tongue (or pen) that reveals the unconscious mind.

ETYMOLOGY: Parapraxis is a fancy word for the Freudian slip. It's derived from Greek para- (beside, beyond) + praxis (act).

lingua franca
PRONUNCIATION: (LING-gwuh FRANGK-uh)
MEANING:noun: A language that is widely used by speakers of different languages to communicate with one another.

ETYMOLOGY: From Italian lingua franca (language of the Franks). The original lingua franca was Italian mixed with Spanish, French, Greek, Arabic, and Turkish, spoken on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the Middle Ages. The name refers to the Arabic custom of calling all Western Europeans "Franks". Today English serves as the lingua franca of the world.

orthoepy
PRONUNCIATION: (or-THO-uh-pee, OR-tho-ep-ee)
MEANING: noun: 1. Study of the pronunciation of words
2. Customary pronunciation of a language

Our resident orthoepist is Stuti Garg whose voice you hear in the pronunciation of the daily words.

ETYMOLOGY: Via Latin from Greek ortho- (correct) + epos (word), ultimately from the Indo-European root wekw- (to speak) that also gave us voice, vowel, vouch, vocation, evoke, revoke, advocate, and epic.

No comments: