Monday, September 11, 2006

Although it is well established that I am a nerd and dork and whatever else you choose to call me (I won’t argue), I don’t really think of myself as a “word nerd.” My grammar is pretty bad, my spelling is terrible and I just really don’t care about the rules of the literary road. I capitalize only because this stupid word processing program does it for me. I am far too lazy to hit that shift key at precisely the right moment. And I just don’t care.

But that said, I really do like words and language and all that. And I have found that I am an obsessive word…looker…upper. OK, so maybe not so good with the vocabulary there. But I am that person who will go look up a word that they don’t know. And then spend another twenty minutes looking up other words just to make sure I know them. And I am also kind of obsessed with etymology. I always wonder why we say what we do. So I end up on the grand quest to find out precisely why we say what we say.

I am quite sure a lot of people are like this but in my circles, I get laughed at when my bookmark falls out from between the pages of my latest entertainment and there is a lengthy list of words I have looked up or I still need to look up. I don’t do it for every book and often times context alone is enough. But when I read something particularly technical, say, something about codes or plants, or when I read something very period where every fabric and type of carriage is named, I like to know exactly how many wheels a “barouche” has.

The other day, I overhead someone use the word “ipecac” and although I know what ipecac is, I had no idea of the origin of the word, so I looked it up. I never expected that a duck’s penis would come into play. But there you go, the benefits of using the dictionary.

4 comments:

Jodi said...

Shame on any laughers! And, hey, I totally wasn't expecting "duck's penis."

acmcclendon said...

Was "barouche" from Pride and Prejudice, by any chance? I think one of the characters in there (forgot her name) had a Barouche Box...

Brenda Griffith said...

Barouch is from every Regency romance ever written. Where the heck did you find a duck's penis in "ipecac"? It is from a Brazilian root (bedstrsw) for pity's sake. No ducks were stimulated to make this emetic.

ren said...

good bless the dictionary...

Etymology: Portuguese ipecacuanha, from Tupi ipekakwánya, from ipéka duck + akwánya penis

i think every jane austen book has at least one snobby boy in a barouche. and they are pretty much the only regency romances i have read.