Sunday, August 15

The Latin Invasion

I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a year and over dinner we got talking about language. He teaches English as a second language, and I told him about my science writing program. He knows a shitload of interesting stuff and is a very eloquent speaker--very professioral, though he doesn't speak in abstruse, ambiguous postmodernese.

Anyway, he pointed out how lots of the more physical, direct words in our language are from Anglo-Saxons: hit, poke, jab--all those verbs that give sentences punch (another physical Anglo word!), which is something I'm trying to bring to my writing. A lot of the boring, stodgy words are from Latin, such as combustion, hierarchy, organic. This makes sense, since--as far as I know--these words were imported into English because the language didn't have good words for such concepts. Some of these words don't have a good alternative, like organic, and have become fully integrated (another boring Latin word!) into English, and seem pretty harmless. But combustion and integrate are traps.

So to spice up my prose, I should take a page from Old Norse and Anglo raiders.


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