That’s the maddening magic of words, and that’s why artists continue to be drawn to them: words are slippery, they refuse to be fixed, they tell stories that are open to infinite readings.
We tend to think of words as the exclusive raw material of writers. But this has been a season of sparkling reminders that artists from many camps — cubism, conceptualism, minimalism, realism and pop — have used words to fashion some of the most inspired art of the past century.
It takes about 10 years for a new word to pass through the fine-mesh editorial process to publication.
I used to keep a notebook in my pocket in case I came across new words. That worked until I put my trousers in the washing machine.
Fun Fact: British radio and television presenter Alan Partridge (a fictional character played by Steve Coogan) is referenced in not one, not two, but seven entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. Oh, you cheeky Brits.
"The phrase [‘wine-dark sea’] is alluring, stirring, and indistinctly evocative. It is also, strictly speaking, incomprehensible … In what way did the sea remind Homer of dark wine? And of the myriad ways to evoke the sea, why compare it to wine at all?”
A Winelike Sea by Caroline Alexander
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.