Wednesday, 19 August 2009

use of the word 'sided'

As I reached for a small square of cotton to wipe my face this morning, I was struck by the words on the box: '100 sided sealed cotton squares'.

Sided? I'd never heard the word used in this sense, but when I looked at the cotton in my hand, I saw that it had been sealed down two sides, presumably to stop the cotton falling apart as I used it.

I had a look at the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary®, which gives the the definition:
side vb sid*ed; sid*ing vt (1591) to furnish with sides or siding <~ a house> ~
The dictionary on my computer says:
[ trans. ] provide with a side or sides; form the side of : the hills that side a long valley.
I think it's a great use of this word, precise and succinct.

By the way, they're not squares, as I use the word, because they're 5cm by 4cm.

Monday, 10 August 2009

a whole nother new word

Watching an entertaining YouTube clip about teaching cane corso puppies to eat fish, I was struck by the words of the narrator, 'a whole nother fish'. As I've posted before, I think this word nother will win the race and oust other, just as apron has ousted napron.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

how fast do irregular verbs change?

I came across an article in Scientific American discussing the rate of change in the English language. Researchers at Harvard University believe that the words in most common use change slowly and uncommon words change more rapidly.

Mark Pagel and his team examined words in 87 Indo-European languages and concluded less-used used words might change over about 750 years, but common words might stay the same for as long as 10,000 years.

The article was interesting, but the examples selected by the author, Nikhil Swaminathan, seemed rather strange to me. He said:
Researchers scoured grammatical texts dating back to the days of Old English, cataloguing all the irregular verbs they came across. Among them: the still irregular "sing" / "sang," "go" / "went" as well as the since-regularized "smite" which once was "smote" in Old English but since has become "smited," and "slink," which is now "slinked" but 1,200 years ago was "slunk."
I regularly say "slunk", so I guess I should admit there are some mornings I wake up feeling 1200 years old.

I'm not into the business of smiting people, so I can't be sure whether I'd choose smited, but I have a feeling smote would be my choice.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

have the worms turned?

For a long time I've suspected that worms must be getting tired of the government licensing people to stick them onto sharp hooks and put them in danger of being eaten by a fish.

Well, today the headlines tell the story. The worm has turned. (Actually, the worms have acted together, by the looks of it.)

There's been a long history of humans worrying about the worms rebelling. Even before Shakespeare's time it was a well-established source of stress.

I've come across a theory that the word worm in this context might have referred to dragons, or, more possibly, snakes, but I think today's photographic evidenced has settled the matter.