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Good English: by Prof. Gopalakrishnan.K.

Good English: Podcast-24
Language: English

World of Words

David Crystal’s Words Words Words is a fascinating as well as an informative work on our main coins of currency of our communication – words. It talks about why we are fascinated about words, takes a guess at how many words exist in the English language (more than 10,00,000), the way our vocabulary is organised and how we group words into fields of meaning.

David Crystal, Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales says that the vocabulary of a language is a salad-bowl of words of different kinds and backgrounds. He discusses strategies of word building and how even names of persons contribute to the making of words.

Crystal also takes a look at the huge range of regional, social, professional, and personal dialects and styles which forms our universe of words. Slang, taboo and dialect are also considered. According to Crystal, one of the best ever descriptions of the beauty of words were made by the novelist Rose Macaulay in 1935, in her essay ‘Writing’ in Personal Pleasures: Words, those precious gems of queer shape and gay colours, sharp angles and soft contours, shades of meaning laid one over the other down history, so that for those far back one must delve among the lost and lovely litter that strews the centuries. They arrange themselves in the most elegant odd patterns; they sound the strangest sweet euphonious notes; they flute and sing and taber, and disappear, like apparitions, with a curious perfume and a most melodious twang.

I think the best thing about the book is the vast range of thoughts that Crystal brings to bear on words.

Right from the latest words that have crept into the language from the Internet to the most frequent words in the language. The word ‘404’ error for example has now come to mean ‘confused, blank, clueless’. The sentence ‘You have got a 404 look on your face’ means that you are looking uniformed or clueless. If one says ‘Peter’s 404’ it simply implies that he is not physically present. (Crystal ranks 100 of them beginning from the to find. ( I would also recommend to you a fantastic site http://www.wordcount.org by Jonathan Harris, a net genius.)

David Crystal says that English is a vacuum cleaner of a language and sucks words from languages that it comes into contact. The journey of the word Arsenic into the English language is long indeed – from Persian to Greek to Latin to Old French to English!! But there is no simple answer to the question where does a word come from. The book is not at all one by an expert for experts. It is an expert’s call to all those interested in the English language to share his adventure with words . I shall instance just one to prove my point: There is one important way of making new words – and that is not to change the structure at all. We just change the way they are used in a sentence.

Consider this dialogue:

Child (at bedtime): Can I have another biscuit?

Mother: I’ll biscuit you if you don’t get off to bed right now!

gk.JPG Nouns morph into verbs, and verbs into nouns. You can have adjectives becoming nouns (he is a regular) and nouns becoming adjectives (it is cotton). Read the book. If you are a word lover you will love it.

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