Posted by: daveed | September 21, 2008

Word play

Just published, yet another a book about how the English language evolved. But this one seems to particularly stand out in its treatment of etymology. The Economist in their brief review says The Secret Life of Words is really about “verbal surrealism,” describing:

... the way the English language has roamed the world helping itself liberally to words, absorbing them, forgetting where they came from, and moving on with an ever-growing load of exotics, crossbreeds and subtly shaded near-synonyms. It is also about migrations within the language’s own borders, about upward and downward mobility, about words losing their roots, turning up in new surroundings, or lying in wait…

I’ve read that languages that adapt best are those that get less complex over time. This book also seems to be talking about English’s mobility, a concept I’ve never encountered before. Great stuff.

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