What’s in a Word?

If you are as fond of our mother tongue as I am, you’ll enjoy the newest addition to the waka waka waka sidebar: the Online Etymology Dictionary, which describes itself as “a map of the wheel-ruts of the English language.”

So much of the pleasure of lifelong learning is the realization that the salient facts and features of the world, which first we meet as unsorted data, as individual specimens to throw in the bag, are bound one to another in an enormous and inconspicuous web of historical, causal, cultural and contextual relationships. As our perspective broadens, and we begin to apprehend the unity underlying the the world’s extravagant diversity, we may look on with delight as chaos yields to order – which is, of course, the fundamental triumph of life itself. We may never finish assembling the puzzle, but we begin to fit the pieces together, and may, if we are lucky enough, glimpse the Grand Design.

But to know where we fit in the design, we must know ourselves. We must do a little digging, and nowhere do the relics lie so close to the surface as in the history of our language.

The words that tell our stories have stories of their own.

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