Posts tagged with "oxford english dictionary" - Faerye Net 2011-03-01T11:43:09+00:00 Felicity Shoulders These are a few of my favorite words, Part XVII 2011-03-01T11:43:09+00:00 2011-09-22T16:19:25+00:00 <p>In the course of <a href="" target="links">bearding the beast of biographical blurb</a> yesterday, I found myself using the verb &#8220;to noodle&#8221;. I used it to describe the way I wrote before I buckled down and got serious. I love this word. To me, noodling is joyous, experimental, and yet also careless. It lacks vigor, but its aimlessness gives it a chance for serendipity, for discovery. The word, with its associations of limp pasta and long strings of wiggly spaghetti, is perfect. But I wondered &#8212; was this a word I could expect everyone to know? As I&#8217;ve previously mentioned, the <a href="" target="links">family dialect of the Shoulders</a> is not always comprehensible to the bystander, and I could even trace the lineage of my fondness of &#8220;to noodle&#8221; to my dad, that inveterate word-bender. I consulted the <em><a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">OED</span></a></em>.</p> <p>The verb &#8220;noodle&#8221;, it transpires, has any number of meanings, including the English regional &#8220;To fool around, to waste time&#8221; and the Australian &#8220;To search (an opal dump or ‘mullock’) for opals&#8221;. In the Southern US, it can refer to a low-tech method of catching turtles and fish. Finally, however, the fifth entry yielded what I sought:</p> <blockquote><strong>noodle, <em>v.5</em></strong>: <strong>1.</strong> <em>trans.</em> and <em>intr.</em> Chiefly <em>Jazz</em>. To play or sing (a piece of music) in a tentative, playful, or improvisatory way; (also) to play an elaborate or decorative series of notes. Also <em>fig.</em><br /> <br /> <strong>2.</strong> <em>U.S. colloq.</em><br /> <strong>a.</strong> <em>intr.</em> To think, esp. to reflect or muse in an unproductive or undirected way; to act light-heartedly (also with <em>about, around</em>); (<em>also</em>) to experiment in an informal, tentative manner.<br /> <strong>b.</strong> <em>trans. <strong>to noodle out</strong></em>: to figure out, work out; to devise. <em><strong>to noodle up</strong></em>: to think up (<em>rare</em>).<br /> <strong>c.</strong> <em>trans.</em> To mull over; to think about, ponder. Also with <em>around</em>.</blockquote> <p>How fabulous that this meaning seems to arise from the musical usage! One of the reasons I love the <em><span class="caps">OED</span></em> is that it includes such a wealth of etymology and reference. This is the stuff a word carries around with it. It carries its own history and <span class="caps">DNA</span>, which may register on a reader&#8217;s brain along with the individual connections and memories that that reader carries in his own personal lexicon.</p> <p>How lovely it is to noodle, to be limp and squiggly as cooked spaghetti, adventurous and light-hearted as a jazz clarinetist, free to wander using only (if you&#8217;ll forgive me) the power of your <a href="" target="links">noodle</a>!</p> Word envy 2010-10-26T17:29:24+00:00 2010-10-26T17:30:26+00:00 <p>Every time I listen to the <a href="" target="links">Franz Ferdinand</a> song &#8220;What You Meant,&#8221; I am struck by the opening line: &#8220;As I took step number four/ Into the close of your tenement&#8221;. It&#8217;s obviously not American English. The band is Scottish, so this isn&#8217;t simply the matter of, as George Bernard Shaw* had it, England and America being separated by a common language. Scotland has its own English as well as its own Gaelic.</p> <p>In Scottish, the word &#8220;tenement&#8221; is, according to the <a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">OED</span></a>, used primarily for a single edifice subdivided for multiple tenants. Each subdivision is a &#8220;house&#8221;, even if it&#8217;s quite small (In England, the <span class="caps">OED</span> informs, this is precisely reversed.) A little different from our American sense of the word, which falls under the OED&#8217;s more general denotation &#8220;A building or house to dwell in&#8221;, but in my experience of modern usage has a connotation of being run-down or slummy.</p> <p>But that&#8217;s not the part of this phrase that appeals to me, while it is part of its strangeness to my ear. The word is <strong>close</strong>. The first definition is &#8220;<strong>1.</strong> <em>gen.</em> An enclosed place, an enclosure.&#8221; and it&#8217;s interesting to see all the other definitions depart from this in a series of semantic narrowings, or as the <span class="caps">OED</span> puts it: &#8220;<strong>2.</strong> In many senses more or less specific&#8230;&#8221; You can almost see the lines of the enclosure jump around as you run down the several meanings and shades of meaning for this one, now largely marked with the shameful &#8220;<em>Obs.</em>&#8221; for obsolescence or confined to local shadings: the continuation of #2, &#8220;An enclosed field (now chiefly local, in the English midlands)&#8221;; #3b, &#8220;A farm-yard&#8221; in Kent, Sussex, and Scotland.</p> <p>But it&#8217;s #4 that fits snugly with our tenement: <br /> <blockquote>4. An entry or passage. Now, in Scotland, esp. one leading from the street to dwelling houses, out-houses, or stables, at the back, or to a common stair communicating with the different floors or ‘flats’ of the building. Also variously extended to include the common stair, the open lane or alley, or the court, to which such an entry leads.</blockquote></p> <p>This is what I wish we had: a word for an entryway that sounds this cozy, that seems to emphasize by its sound and its accidental neighbors in etymology, nearness. And I don&#8217;t think we do, for all my maundering about the OED&#8217;s captured language <a href="" target="links">as birthright</a>. I don&#8217;t think this use of &#8220;close&#8221; is at all active in my part of America, or that you could rationally expect any random conversational partner or reader to grasp this meaning. It&#8217;s too bad. I reached for &#8220;close&#8221; today as I worked on my novel, took it down, looked it over, and found that its plug was not adopted for American sockets.</p> <p>*Apparently: this is one of those quotes attributed to almost everyone witty who has lived in the last few centuries.</p> New word: the love affair 2008-11-06T22:45:03+00:00 2008-11-06T22:50:52+00:00 <p>Truly, English is beautiful for its rich and varied scope, from the profane to the obscure, the lyrical to the particular.</p> <p>Today, exploring the online <a href="" target="link">Oxford English Dictionary</a> because, thanks to <a href="" target="links">Multnomah County Libraries</a>, I can, I came across this utter gem: liripoop.</p> <p>Let me say that again: <b>liripoop</b>. Better still, <em>I own one</em> and have been in discussions about what to call it. This sadly incomplete <a href="" target="links">entry</a> on <a href="" target="links">Wikipedia</a> should give you an idea (the <span class="caps">OED</span> lists liripipe and liripoop as the most prevalent spellings.) I wore one of these around my neck (and a mortarboard on my head) at my <a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">MFA</span> Commencement</a>. We were all unsure what to call it. People seemed to tell us it was a &#8216;hood&#8217; despite its evolution towards the vestigial. &#8220;Why is it that bizarre shape?&#8221; people asked. No one could say. But now, thanks to the <span class="caps">OED</span>, I know.</p> <p>And I also know that by being &#8220;furnished with a liripipe&#8221; I have become&#8230;<b>liripipionated</b>.</p> The need to know 2008-08-18T10:12:07+00:00 2008-08-18T10:12:07+00:00 <p>In sorting through boxes of late, I&#8217;ve come across many things I&#8217;d long forgotten, and one thing at least that gave me a rueful smile. It is a little notebook from when I read Gene Wolfe&#8217;s <em>Book of the New Sun</em>&#42;, starting with <a href="" target="links"><em>The Shadow of the Torturer</em></a>. They&#8217;re good books, well written and building to a surprising culmination. However, they&#8217;re also written in a strange style. They are meant to have been &#8216;translated&#8217; from an arcane and alien tongue, and to &#8216;better represent the original text&#8217;, Wolfe has used unusual words.</p> <p>And I don&#8217;t mean unusual words like <a href="" target="links">purulent</a>, <a href="" target="links">adumbrate</a> or <a href="" target="links">deliquescent</a>. I mean unusual like he must have a full <span class="caps">OED</span> and perused the alternate spellings so long he decided he could invent more with confidence; I mean so unusual that I had online access to the <span class="caps">OED</span> at the time and could only guess at some; I mean unusual as if they were not words in the language, tools in its toolbox, but forgotten implements ranged for display in the cases of a museum of curiosities.</p> <p>It drove me crazy. When there is a word I do not know in a book, I want to learn it. I scrawl it down, leave a Book Dart, or note the place, and then I look it up later. Or, if it isn&#8217;t clear <em>enough</em> from context, I do it right then. Now, Gene Wolfe is not mean enough to write a book in English that English-speakers cannot read (oh Lord, I just thought about the task of translating these) &#8211; all these words are used carefully so that you can get a rough idea &#8211; &#8220;Oh, it&#8217;s a building material&#8221; &#8211; and move on with your reading. Or positioned so you don&#8217;t really have to know. Or linked into long lists to make it easier to figure out the context (the one I remember is, in fact, building materials) and deadly obvious that you should not look them all up.</p> <p>I did. At first, I looked up every one. And there were usually something like six each page. Which brings me to the little notebook. When I realized looking each up before proceeding made the act of &#8216;reading&#8217; problematic, I bought this tiny notebook at the University Bookstore and started scrawling the words in, to be joined by their definitions at a later date. This solution, too, ended, and I stopped worrying and learned to love the evocative mystery. I managed, thus, to finish reading the tetrology &#42;&#42; in less than a decade and without <a href="" target="links">stealing a copy of the <span class="caps">OED</span></a>.</p> <p>The notebook, however, abides. <dl><dt>A sample:</p> </dt> <dd><strong>gallipot:</strong> little pot, apothecary</dd> <dd><strong>badelaire:</strong> badelar (OED): short broad sword with scimitar-like curve</dd> <dd><strong>myste:</strong> myst (OED): priest initiated into mysteries</dd> <dd><strong>armiger:</strong> one entitled to bear heraldic arms</dd> <dd><strong>mestachin</strong> [I think]: sword dancer in fantastic costume or their dance</dd> <dd><strong>caracara:</strong> aberrant falcon in South America with vulture tendencies</dd> <dd><strong>saros:</strong> Babylonian for 3600 or a period of 3600; also, modern astronomy: cycle of 18 years, 10 and 2/3 days in which solar and lunar eclipses repeat themselves</dd> <dd><strong>nenuphar:</strong> water lily</dd> <dd><strong>wildgrave:</strong> ruler of an uncultivated or forest region</dd> <dd><strong>khan:</strong> a building (unfurnished) for the use of travelers</dd> <dd><strong>coffle:</strong> train of men or beasts fastened together, especially slaves</dd></dt> <p>The list persists beyond the defined part for 13 pages. Looking at it now, I find many words I know &#8211; &#8216;martello&#8217;, &#8216;stunsil&#8217;, &#8216;anchorite&#8217;, &#8216;salubrious&#8217;,&#8216;capybara&#8217;. I don&#8217;t exult too much over my former self, however, because I do seem to recall, in the enthusiasm of my drive <em>to know</em>, adding words I knew, but not precisely, to the pages, confidently expecting I would define them all. I already know about myself that as I have grown I have come to be on better terms &#8211; friends, almost &#8211; with ambiguity, but how startling to see it so demonstrated, the contrast so clearly drawn between the person I am now and the one that scrawled these lists, desperate to know, eight or so years ago.</p> <p>&#42; If anyone I know has a line on where these books are now, please let me know. Maybe I lent them?<br /> &#42;&#42; Really, really. They were a gift from my dad, they&#8217;re beautiful editions, and last time I looked I couldn&#8217;t find those <span class="caps">TPB</span> volumes in print.</p> Fiction student incited to poetry; Film at 11 2006-06-15T00:40:00+00:00 2008-11-06T22:50:02+00:00 <p>It&#8217;s hard not to write poetry when your brain is seething and bubbling with words, ideas, and craft. I thought I&#8217;d check in with this one, a first draft. The line breaks are definitely in progress. I think my inspiration was the rhythms of a talk from poet <a href="" target="links">Dorianne Laux</a> about music and meaning in poetry. She advised us to store poetry we loved in our bodies by memorizing it, so that we can come unconsciously to know its rhythms. Listening to her recite from memory helps, too!</p> <p><b>Uncondensed</b><br /><br /> I heard on the news this morning<br /><br /> that a woman stole all twenty volumes<br /><br /> of the Oxford English Dictionary.</p> <p>She drove a pickup through the store window<br /><br /> and pulled each thick book from the shelf<br /><br /> letting it fall<br /><br /> into the impatient tailgate.</p> <p>She was apprehended<br /><br /> <spacer type=horizontal width=30 />later that evening<br /><br /> in a disused warehouse by the Sound.<br /><br /> &#8220;You can&#8217;t take it back,&#8221; she told them.<br /><br /> &quot;You<br /><br /> can&#8217;t.</p> <p>&#8220;In all my life<br /><br /> it is the only thing I have ever<br /><br /> inherited.&#8221;</p> Oh my oh my oh my 2003-10-15T13:54:32+00:00 2008-11-06T22:49:18+00:00 <P>Should I tell you? You&#8217;re competition! But you&#8217;re my audience&#8230;I shall! <a href="" target="links">Powell&#8217;s</a> is giving away the <a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">OED</span></a> to celebrate that beautiful tome&#8217;s 75th birthday. 20 volumes! A $3,000 value, they say! How can they set a value on that book! How I&#8217;ve missed it since I left the sheltering nest of the <span class="caps">CWRU</span> IP block&#8230;How glorious should it be mine!</p> <p>Hey, I see you entering! It&#8217;s mine! <span class="caps">SCAT</span>!</p>