The English language is a funny thing. It's similar to the United States in that it's a mish-mash of other cultures, languages and colloquialisms. I did not realize, however, English is Germanic based until recently. In high school, I had been told by teachers I believed that English is a romance language, Latin-based like French and Italian. LIES! Realizing that my love of English is based on falsehoods is disappointing, but my love doth not wane. Nay, in fact. I still adore this crazy, tossed-in-a-blender language and all its various accents, slang terms and regional oddities.
I have a few books on the subject that I seriously love. One is called "Words Fail Me" by Patricia T. O'Conner. She is funny, smart and this book is a must-read for anyone who needs to write anything- whether for work or college or for fun. It's entertaining and makes a great that-just-makes-sense education. What more could we ask from non-fiction?
For my birthday this year, my dad gave me "Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language", also by O'Conner for my birthday. It was on my Amazon Wish List along with other similar titles. I haven't dived into it very far yet. I've got a serious fiction fixation going on right now which can only be satisfied by devouring various thrillers, YA novels and murder mysteries while (during those brainless tasks at work and home) also listening to the last few books of the "Wheel of Time" series audio-book style.
I will be reading it in its entirety soon. I did start it and I was delighted to learn that although the British feel they are speaking "true" English and that we Americans have strayed, there are many pronunciations that we use that are actually closer to the old ways than the British. For example, the dropped rs? A relatively new development, language-wise. She says, "Educated people in Britain began dropping their r's in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries." So... ha! Snobby Brits who criticize our pronunciations! While tidbits like this might bore some of you to tears, I gobble it up. I love English and I love delving into its history, myths and oddities even more.
One of my most favorite possessions are the set of ancient dictionaries pictured below. The teeny tiny publishing date says they are from 1899 (though there are the dates 1897 and 1898 thrown in there for flavor). I acquired these of late when the bosses at the city library were cleaning out an old closet and they told us (I worked there... remember?) they would be putting everything out on a table for the public to take, but we got first pick, since we happened to be there first. Yay!
Such a fortuitous happenstance for someone insane enough to want four giant volumes such as these. Now I just need a home office with a built-in shelf or alcove just right for these to be stored and displayed properly near my writing desk. Where I will sit to write...
I have to wonder if other languages simply adopt words like English does. Words such as alma mater (French), status quo (Latin), royal (French), ostracize and tragedy (Greek) coyote and armada (Spanish). (Want more adopted words? Click the link for a rather comprehensive list of so-called "loanwords".) I don't know. Maybe they do. Regardless, English is a pretty awesome, albeit difficult to master, language.
Which brings me to my next blog entry. Stay tuned 'till next time when we will find out who is winning The Big Word Game!