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Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Friday, February 25, 2011

In Celebration of the Anglo-Saxon Loogie

Last week I participated in the Bernard Pivot Blogfest, hosted by Nicole Ducleroir at One Significant Moment At A Time. The blogfest was a huge success, with around 150 participants, not to mention being great fun. Thanks, again, to Nicole for hosting!

One of the questions, though, got me thinking.

What is your least favorite word?

The first page of Beowulf; courtesy of Wiki Commons
Some common words included:
  • moist (I think this was the most common)
  • some assorted swear words
  • vain/vein
  • flesh
  • can't
  • sorry
  • lush
  • breath/breathe
  • no
  • hate
  • maybe
  • snot
  • glowered
  • chuckle

And, I had a short conversation with Leigh over email discussing the "loogie-like" quality of one of my FAVORITE words: slew. I still defend my word, whether it will involve a big wad of spittle or not!

Okay, besides the negative connotations with many of these words, most of them have something else in common. With the exception of moist (which I will NOT defend), vain and lush, these words all have Germanic/Old English roots (okay, well, technically glower might have been borrowed really early from Old Scandinavian, but it's not French, okay?)

Why do we oppose our strong Anglo-Saxon linguistic roots? Favorite words included those pulled from Greek, Latin, French, Spanish (one of mine was Yiddish, but I suppose we shouldn't look at mine, eh?).

My writing teacher last semester repeatedly said, "If there's something you can say with an Anglo-Saxon word, use it." And I agree. Otherwise it can sound pretentious (which is from French) or, perhaps, highfalutin.

An example, perchance:
The monarch's confidant departed for foreign countries, carrying beautiful presents of silver and gold.
Compare:
The king's friend left for far-away lands, bearing shimmering gifts of silver and gold.
Now, how do these different sentences make you feel? Does the second inspire more emotion? Can you imagine the situation better/differently? With a couple exceptions, the words in the first example have foreign roots, and the words in the second have Anglo-Saxon roots.

Nutmeg seeds; courtesy of Wiki Commons
This may not be a popular view, but I think native English speakers have stronger associations with Anglo-Saxon vocabulary than other vocabulary (and I restrict this to native-English speakers only because I cannot speak from another view point). Other words are colorful, perhaps even more poetic, but they are the spices of our writing dish. You're not going to open your spice cabinet and eat the entire tub of Nutmeg, are you? (It's toxic in high doses! Don't do it!)

We shouldn't do that with our language, either.

Enjoy the meat, and flavor lightly.

And if it means talking about a slew of loogies instead of copious saliva then so be it :)

Do you agree? What's your favorite Anglo-Saxon word? Not sure if your word's Anglo-Saxon? Check here.

7 comments:

Heidi said...

The nerdy linguist in me loves this post. :D

So far it seems my favourite words are all from Latin or French. Vivacious. Vivid. Zest.

Carol Riggs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol Riggs said...

Ha! Leave it to you, Linguist Extraordinaire, to scrutinize writing/novels based on the ORIGINS of words. Very interesting! Now I'm curious as to which I use, or what the percentage is. ;o)

Have a great weekend, Rosie!

Lynn said...

Interesting post! The least favourite words posted are ones I only mind when they are over-used in writing, and I completely agree with your writing teacher.

Jemi Fraser said...

Okay -- this would never have crossed my mind, but it's so interesting :)

My favourite word for the sound of it is discombobulated ... and apparently it is anglo saxon!

LTM said...

LOL! I was reading a magazine w/my 7 yr-old yesterday and it said "moist lips" and she goes, "Ewww!"

I swear, I didn't tell her! :D

And I'll skip the nutmeg, but I love the shimmer. Please stop evoking mucus... :D

HowLynnTime said...

I love lots of lost words that do get plunked into my stories.

I love old english - old french - I am always lost in the spellings and word use and have to be careful not to write it ---

divers - diverse

Spell check won't catch my wandering - lol


I love the way english is so easy to play with - we constantly invent new words or use them in whole new ways -

Great post - I think that first question was one of the hardest - for word love is not a very loyal sort of adoration to me - I am a playgirl in words and any are likely to catch my eye if they are pretty.

Now on a side note - growing up I had a band director who taught us that A Looby (relative to Loogie) was the nasty spit blob you let out of your horn from time to time to keep it from sounding like a near dead cow. One year he took innocent little us out into the world and made s eat at a cafeteria - It was called
Luby's

It is amazing how delicate our teen hunger became - amazing what you can make your mind believe with just a word.

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