I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

on language

A post by serendipity on writing has got me thinking. I am a self-confessed grammar nerd. I find words themselves interesting and just the right phrase can take something ordinary and make it sublime. I call them 'delicious phrases', those certain turns of words that are enjoyable to simply read over and over and think, 'yes, yes, that's it'. And it is fitting that 'delicious phrase' is, itself, a delicious phrase.

Certain authors use them and so I love reading their books over and over again, enjoying the phrases much as one might enjoy savoring some perfectly prepared dish or sipping some fine wine. Jane Austen, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Stephen Leacock - each has that way of writing that I love to immerse myself in for a while.

And words themselves fascinate me, how our use of them has changed over the years. English has so many quirks and has borrowed from so many other languages that I was not surprised to hear it referred to as one of the most difficult languages to learn. One quirk: if malignant is an adjective and malign is a verb, does it not follow that a non-spreading cancer would be benignant and you could do something nice to benign someone? I have only seen the word benignant once, in Dickens's The PIckwick Papers (a delightfully funny book with wonderful characterization).

Enough scholarly talk. Next post will be about the farm, I think.

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