Saturday, December 17, 2005

Once upon a time before blogs...

There were e-mail discussion lists! And lists of specialized info that you could subscribe to!

One that still is alive and thriving is "World Wide Words" available through its website at http://www.worldwidewords.org/index.htm.

It's sent out by British freelance etymologist Michael Quinion, who explains words and their derivations on a weekly basis.

His newsletter is a constant lesson in historical humility. You may have a favorite phrase, like "cash on the nail" and "the whole nine yards," and know a neat story about where it came from. Almost without exception Michael Quinion can tell you that your neat story about your favorite phrase is wrong, wrong, wrong. There's plenty of documentation to show the phrase was around a long time before the explanation. "Nine yards" was not the standard length of a machine gun's ammunition belt during the Second World War.

But when it comes to the true explanation, though, Quinion is usually no farther ahead than the rest of us. Except, of course, that he knows what he doesn't know, which is the whole point.

1 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Jason M.C. Price said...

I can't really say I am surprised by your eclectic and fascinating array of interests, but I do find myself wanting to attend your lectures, and looking forward to checking out your blog daily. Please keep sharing the e-lists. I am both inspired and challenged by your scholarship and your example of leadership at our university.

10:32 AM  

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