The Stories of English

After Shakespeare, playwright Thomas Nashe (who?) contributed more words (nearly 800) to the English language than any other writer.  His successes include: conundrum, grandiloquent, harlequin, impecunious, Latinize, Mediterranean, memorize, multifarious, plausibility, seminary, silver-tongued, terminate and transitoriness.  Balderdash and helter-skelter have been attributed to him as well.

And his failures?

Adequation, apophthegmatical (my personal favorite, it means "pertaining to an apophthegm," what else?), baggagery, clientry, confectionate, intermedium, oblivionize (excellent, no?), bodgery ("botched work"), and collachrymate ("accompany with weeping").  "Chatmate" sounds like a word, and perhaps it will yet receive its due.

"Sparrow-blasting" was intended to mean "being blighted with a mysterious power of whose existence one is skeptical," this could someday come in handy.  By the way, here are some works by Nashe, I am told they include some soft porn.  Here are some amusing quotes from Nashe, including a summary of different ways to be drunk.

The above discussion of words is from David Crystal’s The Stories of English, highly recommended, here is one good review.  The book has more detail than the usual popular treatments of linguistic evolution, yet it remains readable to the educated layman.  Crystal also rebuts the common myth that television is producing a uniform dialect, either in the U.S. or around the world.


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