Brain Pickings

All in a Word: A Compendium of Linguistic Curiosities

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We have a certain obsession with words. But no matter the degree of your linguistic geekery, it’s hard not to find question of words’ origin, life and death fascinating. In All In A Word: 100 Delightful Excursions into the Uses and Abuses of Words, linguist Vivian Cook takes us on a riveting journey into the most curious nooks and corners of language, from how we learn words as a child to how words are born and why they die to made-up words we’ve come to take for granted. (‘Google,’ ‘television’ or ‘robot,’ anyone?)

This book is all about the different aspects of words, ranging from their forms to their meanings, from their roles in organizing our societies to their roles in helping us to think. It consists of a variety of pieces, some short, some long, some serious, some frivolous, some based on scientific research, some on opinion. As each piece is separate from the others, they can either be dipped into or read consecutively” ~ Vivian Cook

Each chapter features a deluge of games, puzzles, lists and quotes for your edutainment. You can test how many words you know with the Basic Words Test, psychoanalyze The Beatles and The Rolling Stones based on their lyrics, and see who invented more words, Shakespeare or Chaucer. (If you’re itching for a sneak peek: Chaucer has linguistic staples like ‘box,’ ‘femininity’ and ‘Martian’ to his credit, while Shakespeare has staked his claim on ‘addiction,’ ‘fashionable’ and ‘priceless’.)

As with any scientific subject, the study of words tries to explain the facts; the behaviour of words is no more a matter of opinion than the behaviour of electrons. Needless to say, many aspects of words are still little studied, many are controversial, while some of the most important await better techniques for analyzing the brain.” ~ Vivian Cook

Like all innovation, Cook’s obsession with spelling was born out of frustration, after one too many people overlooked the crucial gender difference between the British spellings Vivian and Vivien, assuming from his first name that he is a woman. (It’s okay, we did a double take, too.)

via Flavorwire

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