Saturday, June 05, 2004

Language and Life

Or, The Life of Language as we dabblers like to call it

"If language were liquid it would be rushing in.
Instead here we are in a silence more eloquent than any word
could ever say."

Suzanne Vega
At my house we talk about words. I don't mean that we use words. Certainly we do. I mean we talk about them, their meanings and origins. My adult children grew up with my peculiar penchant for language curiosities. I can't help it! And they are doomed to being called pedantic forever as a result ;-)

So, just now my husband asked me remind him about the US English language acronym: TWAIN (referring to twain drivers to run computer scanners). Nope, it's not associated with our beloved Samuel Clemmens. I had read a few years ago that it was an acronym for Technology Without An Interesting Name. A pleasant thought, but.... Nope. It's more tangential than that. According to AcroIT (a great resource) it was originally taken from a poem by Rudyard Kipling: The Ballad of East and West.. the quote is:

"...never the twain shall meet." Clemmens got his name from Mississippi River depth soundings... twain. I think the reference is really associated by wide tangents with the Kipling quote. I love tangents... even deep ones.

I'm also a big advocate of researching word usage and etymology. I know. I'm geeky in that way. When I worked at a shelter, graveyard shifts (12 AM to 8 AM) I used to read the BIG reference dictionary in the wee hours. You had to be there.

My goal in life is to have a current and bound edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in my "library". Right now I have a couple years old edition of the computer version. For me it's just not the same when you can't feel the paper between your fingers.

So here's my initial bid for lightening up the weekend "news". Words, words, words. As says Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty in "Alice Through the Looking Glass": When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'