Weekend open thread

In the spirit of experimentation which led me to write my commentary posts only just before the actual post goes live, I’ve decided to try doing the weekend open thread posts a bit differently too. Being my place to soapbox and/or discuss all the interesting things I’ve seen or done through the course of the week, they have nevertheless been a bit sparse of late, and so I’ll be fiddling with them as the week goes onward instead of writing them all on Friday.

To kick us off, I was poking around TVtropes and came across a reference to Poul Anderson’s neat little piece Uncleftish Beholding, of which you’ve probably heard. I’ll therefore kick the description of it down to the following footnote[1]. As an aside, it was originally a goal of mine to try to do the same thing with my writing; it’s more difficult than it looks, so I gave up on it.

That’s not the interesting thing, though. Studying Russian as I am now (and German as I once was), I occasionally come across lamentations about how borrowings from English and other languages are ruining the purity of the tongue[2]. I’ve always taken it for granted that English speakers never really cared, and so of course I find an article on Wikipedia which proves me wrong. In reading about ‘inkhorn terms’, a pejorative name for borrowings from Greek and Latin (usually), I discovered that English has already had the debate. It’s just that we had it from about 1550 to 1650.

That’s only a marginally interesting sub-issue, though: more interesting are some of the words that those against imported words came up with. I do wish English had words like inwit (conscience), endsay (conclusion), yeartide (anniversary), and crosslikening speechlore (comparative linguistics).

Interesting stuff.

[1] It’s a description of basic atomic theory written using only words of Anglo-Saxon descent, except for a few which Anderson either forgot about or decided weren’t worth the trouble. Some other author whose name escapes me at the moment called it ‘Ander-Saxon’.
[2] German example. A bit tongue in cheek. I can offer no better Russian example than the verb гуглить (googlit’): to Google it.

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2 Responses to Weekend open thread

  1. Esty says:

    That’d be Douglas Hofstadter who came up with “Ander-Saxon”, having already come up with “Anglo-Saxon” to indicate ‘e’-less English.

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