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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 18:50

'A feeling in the tips of one's fingers.' Courtesy of Henry Hitchings (2009)

My journey through the English language courtesy of Henry Hitchings has come to an end. I have read his ‘The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English’ from cover to cover. I’ll have to read his book on Dr Johnson’s Dictionary next – unless I have something better to do in OU Land. Or get my hands on Mencken’s book on ‘The American Language’ which the late Alistair Cook would often quote.

I feel better armed to deal with concerns for the veracity of such words as ‘enculturated’ and ‘e-lapsed’ time that those of studying Online and Distance Learning (e-learning) must get used to.

I’ve learnt about loan words, calques and coinage; words taken straight from a foreign language, expressions that are literal translations of a foreign language and invented words.

English is a language of constant invention.


I have a put down from the 16th century for any new fangled multiple-syllable techno babble I come across. I can call the author a 'Controversialist  - a writer who spurts out horrid polysyllables; and I might use the line, ‘such addicts of exotic terms would rarely use a short word where a long alternative could be found.' From John Florio's A Worlde of Wordes (1598)

I love the French loan word 'Escargatoire' which is 'a nursery of snails'. I am sure I can find a way to use it.

It amuses me that William Fox Talbot wanted to call photography ‘photogenic drawing while after Louis Daguerre we have ‘daguerreotype’ but pushed by Sir John Hersche ‘photography’ and ‘photo’ caught on. (Queen Victoria asked a grand-daughter for a 'photo' in a letter).

I thought of ‘stakeholder’ as a word that had to be 1970s corporate speak, only to learn that it was first used in 1850, along with entrepreneur and capitalist

Etiquette has become ‘netiquette’ in OU Land

This is a Georgian notion and appears in Johnson's dictionary of 1818. One piece of advice given regarding etiquette is to 'be discreet and sparing of your words.'

With is in mind, as I begin a new module my self-imposed rules will be:

  • Messages under 50 words
  • Forum replies and entries under 250 words
  • OU Blog global entries under 250 words, OU entries under 500 and private entries as long as I wish, but probably under 2,000 words
  • MyStuff under 1,000 (though I plan to break these entries into more manageable ‘learning objects,’ like the paper equivalent of waht in 1990 the OU called a ‘Concept Card.’

(I have also broken this entry into four parts to keep the wordage down per entry. More to follow.)

Hitchings leaves mention of the Internet to the last pages of the final paragraph

'Online communities, which are nothing if not eclectic, prove an especially rich breeding ground for new words.'

* extremes
* deliriously ludic (sic)
* personalised
* localised

REFERENCE

The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English. Henry Hitchings. 2008

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