Word Fun

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Just a short post this time, to share some of joys of a present I was given last week. It’s a little book called Words Fail Me by Teresa Monachino. If you haven’t heard of it, it basically sets out some of the oddities of very peculiar language. For example…

  • Our noses run, while our feet smell.
  • Why is the word ‘abbreviation’ so long?
  • ‘Quite a lot’ denotes a large amount of something; ‘quite a few’ denotes the same thing.
  • Why isn’t the word ‘phonetic’ spelled phonetically?
  • The word ‘re-entered’ contains four different pronunciations of the letter ‘e’, including the silent one.
  • Those who leave have departed, while those who are left remain.
  • The word ‘monosyllabic’ has five of them.
  • If you have one, you’d probably have trouble pronouncing the word ‘lisp’.
  • The word ‘verb’ is a noun.
  • The word ‘set’ has the largest list of definitions in the dictionary, with over 430 different usages. You can set something on fire, set your heart on achieving something, play a set of tennis, watch badgers in their sets, wait for the jelly to set, set up a business, pay a set price for your house, deviate from the prevailing mindset, watch the sun set, set the dogs on an intruder, set a trap, set sail for home, describe an offender to the police as thick-set, make the sets for a theatrical production, collect all the Harry Potter books in the set, read about the Bloomsbury Set, have a precious gem set in a new ring…and so on and so on.

I’m also meandering through another fabulous little book at the moment, The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal, someone of whom I am a big fan. I might share some of this volume’s splendid insights in a future post.