Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Word Nerds

There's these two guys podcasting as the Word Nerds. I downloaded and listened to the podcast Terms of Determination, terms of Surrender. It wasn't bad.

There were a few factual errors that I picked up on. For example, one of them claimed that the Sex Pistol's album Never mind the bullocks, here's the Sex Pistols was a song. But nothing major that I could tell.

The thing that most bothered me was that the premise of the show is a kind of argument from etymology. That somehow, by going through what a word means and different ways of saying the same thing, you are actually saying something useful. To me it's just so much bullshit. Most of the time, etymologies are just so stories because the actual coining of any word is lost to time.

Also, this type of discussion presupposes that the "original meaning" of a word is best. It glosses over the fact that language learners and users almost never have access to this type of historical meaning. We just don't learn words that way.

Oddly though, as Eric notes, this is the type of thing people are interested in.

1 comment:

Maryann Devine said...

It's the William Safire thing, people just like the stories. It makes me crazy and I'm not even a linguist.

-- Maryann

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