Monday, January 17, 2011

And in the beginning there were words...

I promised myself I would begin blogging this year on a regular basis. I’ve done it in the past for a short period when we were on a trip to Italy (http://mamarosascucina.blogspot.com/ if you’d like to take a look), but that had a very specific life. Now I want to write about writing, the creative process, reading, theatre, and whatever else wanders through my brain. I also need to teach myself the discipline of writing much more regularly. So where to begin?

The basis of all writing is words. I love words, so I thought I’d begin with some interesting words. Every day in my email I receive a message from wordsmith.org called A.Word.A.Day. You can go to their site and sign up for this service. Some people have their morning coffee. I have my morning word. It’s like a little gift waiting to be opened each day, usually teaching me something new, sometimes reminding me of a story or happening, always delighting me. But I divagate. (verb intr.: To wander or digress.) AWAD not only gives you a definition, but a veritable plethora of other engaging information as well.
I have a particular fascination for words about language, so let’s take a look at some recent words from A.Word.A.Day and all that comes with each word. I will try to avoid periphrasis (noun: A roundabout way of saying something, using more words than necessary) in my writing today, although I’ll admit that is not in my nature.  In December, I was gifted with several words about language called “what to avoid when using words.”  Let’s take a look at an entry.
paralipsis
PRONUNCIATION:
(par-uh-LIP-sis)

MEANING:
noun: Drawing attention to something while claiming to be passing over it.
ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin paralipsis, from Greek paraleipsis (an omission), from paraleipein (to leave on one side), from para- (side) + leipein (to leave). First recorded use: 1550.
NOTES:
Paralipsis is especially handy in politics to point out an opponent's faults. It typically involves these phrases:
"not to mention"
"to say nothing of"
"I won't speak of"
"leaving aside"
USAGE:
"Political correctness has breathed new life into the paralipsis, the rhetorical device whereby we make a statement by first announcing that we are not going to make it. When pundits write 'No one is suggesting...' the American eye reads 'I'm suggesting.'"
Florence King; If 'Words Mean Things', Then All is Lost; Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia); Feb 19, 1995.

Now, that is a word for today. If we could only convince our politicians to rein in their paralipsis (and their periphrasis as well, for that matter).

Now here is a beauty of a word: sesquipedality

PRONUNCIATION:
(ses-kwi-pi-DAL-i-tee)

MEANING:
noun: The practice of using long words.
ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin sesqui- (one and a half) + ped- (foot). First recorded use: 1759.

I just love the etymology! Can you imagine a more perfect word than one that means a foot-and-a-half long to describe the language used by that hubristic English professor you suffered with in college? Hah! You could put him in his place with that one.

Before I fall into pleonasm (noun: The use of more words than those necessary to express an idea), I will close for the day, lest this become an exercise in scatology.

6 comments:

thefirstgates.com said...

Nice initial post, Rosi. I'll add a link to my blogroll.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Great post, Rosi. I love those words! You've tempted me to bookmark that site.

Robert L. Gisel said...

Considering the sashay dance in words of the politician, as you were, you might want to try your hand at really getting inside their heads with refudiocelatory definement of some of their more popular selection. For example, refudiate, conjugated here: http://whowouldwrite.blogspot.com/2010/11/rufudiate-hits-jackpot.html
Still it seems a rather lame word in spite the fact it lights up a Google search like the million dollar jackpot at Las Vegas.
What do you think?

barbarajporreca said...

Those of us who don't spell well alway feel a little intimidated by big and sometimes small words. I like reading your writing, it reminds me of Poughkeepsie, when we would do my papers together-pre spell check.

Rosi said...

Robert, I couldn't possibly repudiate what you say.

Helen Jacobson said...

I just got caught up on all your posts. Great reading!
I subscribed yesterday and, even though it wasn't as easy as it should be, I got it to work.
I'll look forward to all your future posts!!