Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Language Lessons

Style notes 31: August 2 2010 - Telegraph
If you find yourself using a word of whose meaning you are unsure, do look it up in the dictionary. When we get a word wrong it is embarrassing. It demeans us as professional writers and shakes our readers’ confidence in us. In recent weeks we have confused endocrinology – the study of the body’s endocrine system – with dendrochronology, which is the study of dating trees. More embarrassing still, we accused the eminent broadcaster Sir David Attenborough of being a naturist – someone who chooses not to wear clothes – when in fact he is a naturalist;
The dictionary needs to scrax and polkadodge - Telegraph
...we now learn that the Oxford University Press has something similar. It's a vault in which are stored cards inscribed with millions of words that aren't recognised by dictionaries. They aren't derived from place names – but they do have splendidly specific definitions.

"Polkadodge", for instance – "the dance that occurs when two people attempt to pass each other but move in the same direction". And "scrax" – "the waxy coating that is scratched off an instant lottery ticket".

These two words strike me as profoundly useful... English, as the distinguished lexicographer Sarah Palin reminded us last month after coining the verb "refudiate" as an alternative to "refute", is a "living language.

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