While speech that marks you as a stranger can be a curse, it can also be a blessing. Though I’m focusing here on the moments of embarrassment that reveal my outsider status, the truth is that those two languages jostling in my head have made my writing richer. When I’m writing and I’m stuck for a word in English, I think of what I want to say in Greek. Then I translate, sometimes going to my Greek dictionary and sometimes to the Greek-English dictionary that’s left over from a friend’s classes. Either way, I feel I end up linguistically where I want to be, forming a sentence through a detour away from English and back again.
Jonathan Dent offers a fascinating look at one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most challenging assignments for the Oxford English Dictionary. Apparently as a young philologist, Tolkien was tasked with tracing the etymology of “walrus” – a tricky word “of disputed origin that had all but entirely replaced the earlier English name morse since its first appearance in English in the late 1600s.”
A liqueur made only for drinking at the end of a revoltingly long bottle party when all the drinkable drink has been drunk.
Of amateur actors, to adopt a Mexican accent when called upon to play any variety of foreigner (except Pakistanis - from whom a Welsh accent is considered sufficient).
To strongly desire to swing from the pole on the rear foot plate of a bus.
A nostalgic yearning which is in itself more pleasant than the thing being yearned for.
Descriptive of the pleasing coolness on the reverse side of the pillow.
One who washes up everything except the frying pan, the cheese grater and the saucepan which the chocolate sauce has been made in.
To beat an expert at a game of skill by playing so appallingly that none of his clever tactics or strategies are of any use to him.
The rouge pin which shirtmakers conceal in the most improbable fold of a new shirt. Its function is to stab you when you don the garment.