mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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R.U.R. (11)

The Story of English in One Hundred Words by David Crystal.

the Musk Deer sniff, mill about,
exploring the kraal.

This is a fun little book; not quite as hardcore (well, middle-core) as some of the linguistics books I like but rather a fun little word nerd book. One hundred etymological entries-- the hundred that Mister Crystal feels best provide an in to talk about the evolution of the Angle's cant. Some of it is very, very British-- the first word is "roe," as in roe deer. Oh...yeah. I think I know about roe deer existing. Alright then. Still, we lug the history of the language around with us here in America, so there is plenty of room to get Anglophony up in here. "#11 Bone-house" is about kennings, & I can only ever think of kennings & the Norse oral tradition as a bunch of Vikings having rap battles. There is a bit of doggerel in "#38 Alphabet" by Alaric Watts-- the nearest comparison I can find for its rhythmic alliteration is Blackalicious' "Alphabet Aerobics". That took me back to the year 2000. "#27 Grammar" is interesting-- I hadn't made the connection between "grammar", "gramarye" & "glamour" but the spell-craft (pun horribly intended) makes sense. Quick, somebody tell Grant Morrison! David Crystal selects Shakespeare's word for "#44 Undeaf" for the un-prefix, a favorite coining of The Bard's that only leaves me thinking about Sleep No More. In much the same way, talking about "#56 Dilly-dally" for word repetition only makes me think of "timey-wimey" & Doctor Who.

A few word brought me around to, well, the story of my own life. "#68 Dinkum" for instance. Growing up, I played a lot of the roleplaying game TMNT & Other Strangeness, along with its spin-off setting, After the Bomb, in which every animal in the world mutated. One of the sourcebooks I liked a lot was Mutants Down Under, the Post-Apocalyptic Australian Anthropomorphic setting, filled with Aborigines, riding grasshoppers, dirigibles, plastic shotguns-- you name it. That book had a glossary of Australian slang & some Aboriginal dialects, & that is where I first learned about Marban & idioms like "fair dinkum." & then we have a discussion in "#58 Americanism" about what to call that strip of grass between the sidewalk & the street-- I grew up calling it a tree lawn, but The Wasteland is the part of America rife with stranger terms, like "devil strip." & between that & "#51 Yogurt," I started really wondering where the bits of British spelling entered into my writing from. It is largely the end chunks of "o/ou" words like colour. It isn't an affectation; I have consciously decided use the spelling "catalogue" & "dialogue" because I think those endcap "ues" look better, but things like "colour," "glamour," & "armour" just tumble off my fingers, & have for as long as I can remember. Oh & using "ae" up front instead of just an "e"-- "aesthetics" is clearly better; I think that is part whatever weird Anglicized learning I had once upon a time, & part personal preference. A little mystery.
Tags: books, crystal, haiku, linguistics

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