The Glottal Stop: Words About Words

 

I know what you’re asking. Yeah, I had to look it up too. Wikipedia explains it better than I could. So why in the world am I using this obscure term as the name of my new blog, which is really about some favorite words? Good question.

Well, for one thing, I like the sound of the syllable “glot” in words (polyglot, monoglot, glottal). It sounds comical. And the concept of an article (or is it particle?) of speech that can’t even be expressed in a letter of the alphabet is cool. But the main reason is that EVERYTHING ELSE IS TAKEN.

Go ahead and try to come up with a name for a blog about favorite words. “Favorite Words” was taken back when people walked around with clubs and you had to know Unix to use the internet. Ditto for “(Your Name Here)’s Favorite Words”. Let’s see if we can think of something clever… How about “Lexicon Likes”. Sorry, it’s taken. Maybe “Units of Thought: Some Words About Words”? The first part is taken. “Words-A-Go-Go?”? “Verboten Verbiage”? “Sonorous Syllables”? Taken, taken, taken. They’re all taken. The people who want to use these are writers; leave it to them to leave no stone unturned in cranking out clever titles.

What’s in a name anyway? For those of you who dare to look beyond a title (and maybe the first four paragraphs) I hereby present to you, in no particular order and totally without rhyme or reason some thoughts on the symbols and sounds that make life possible.

Language Is a Virus

I find the Burroughs/Anderson/Dawkins (can we abbreviate this as BAD?) theory totally believable. Okay, so you can’t see one under an electron microscope, but think about it—it has no life of its own, can only reproduce in the presence of a host (us), and is mostly specific to one species (us) where it is highly contagious, usually striking, like polio, in early childhood. In a few cases it can be fatal (“What did you call me?” BANG) but the vast majority of the time its relationship with the host is symbiotic, possibly even being necessary for human survival. Like any normal virus, it has evolved into various subtypes (clades, languages). In some victims, like bloggers, viral proliferation is so massive it results in viral shedding (which you’re reading). But hey, let’s not badmouth this invader. Without it there are just nameless grunts, rocks, sticks, and creatures bigger and more predatory than us.

So in celebration of the language virus I hereby dedicate this blog. Now for the champagne bottle to my computer… You wish!

Smithereens—Was this what became of Smither? Or did he invent it? Or both?

Scree—To those of us who suffered through high school Latin this will sound like a word we had to memorize declensions of: scree, scrae, scrum, scrujus, scrujus, scrujus… But since people no longer take Latin, I guess a decline in declensions is declared. Take that, Spiro T. Agnew!

Foist—Most instances of the word refer to unsuccessful attempts to do so: “tried to foist” being more common than “foisted”. But then again, these are generally written or spoken by the potential foistee rather than the would-be foister. Don’t you just love italics?

Hobgoblin—I think this is something you tend to see at Halloween. Although it seems like a cross between Tolkien’s hobbit and goblin, the word predates JRR by quite a bit… Don’t you just love ellipses?

Estoppel—Sounds like a cross between “epistle” and “gospel”. Or am I just too religious? Would a lawyer who uses this a lot be called “The Apostle of Estoppel”? Why don’t they just call it “stoppage” like they do at a hockey game?

Malefactor—       When broken by a hyphen at the end of a line it becomes a “male-factor”. Like the arrow in the FedEx logo, once you’ve seen it that way it’s impossible not to see that every time.

Indisposed—A genteel way of saying hungover, although by rights it should mean “not thrown away”.

More later.

 

 

 

 

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