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By Julian Burnside

A bonzer (p. 288) dialogue of the unusual yet dinkum (p. 289) pedigree (p. 224) of the naughty (p. 202), nice (p. 212), and, occasionally, obscene (p. 217) English language.

We dwell in a torrent of phrases — from radio and tv, books and newspapers, and now from the net. yet, as Julian Burnside reminds us during this re-creation of the bestselling Wordwatching, phrases are a resource either one of excitement and tool, and will be deployed for sturdy or for unwell.

Some of those essays discover curiosities in bizarre corners of the language just to remind us of the intense richness of the English language. different items use small concerns of language to demonstrate better tactics of cultural borrowing and alter. Burnside’s musings remind us that we should always no longer be alarmed on the instability of the language; fairly, we must always see its wanton borrowings as a resource of its energy and energy.

Wordwatching additionally reminds us of the necessity to concentrate on the misuse of language within the provider of sinister reasons — no matter if political, ideological, social, or own. An ear well-tuned to the nuances of vocabulary inoculates the hearer in contrast epidemic of deception.

With 9 new essays, facing topics as different as points in time, fancy phrases, the issues with ‘issue’, ordinary sounds, oxymorons, and the fallacy of ‘wading in’, this revised and accelerated variation of Wordwatching is an interesting demonstration of the ability and the excitement of the English language.

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It can be the feel Peter Carey had in brain while he wrote: The declared which means of a spoken sentence is barely its overcoat, and the true that means lies beneath its scarves and buttons. (Oscar and Lucinda, bankruptcy forty three) notwithstanding, while emphasis was once used to intend power or depth of assertion or expression, within which the relationship to phainein isn't really transparent. possibly it indicates ‘This will convey them’ — yet not really. A sycophant was once initially an informer in historic Athens. It potential actually ‘one who exhibits figs’. the relationship with figs is an issue of unresolved hypothesis. One recommendation is sycophant used to be someone who trained opposed to unlawful fig-smugglers. The OED2 says that this ‘cannot be substantiated’, and gives an alternate: ‘It is feasible that the time period referred initially to the gesture of “making a fig” or had an obscene implication’. creating a fig is outlined in OED2 as ‘A contemptuous gesture which consisted in thrusting the thumb among of the closed arms or into the mouth. ’ A aiding citation from 1579 is given, which coincides with the emergence of this that means of the notice in English. In 1755, Johnson outlined to fig as ‘To insult with fico’s [sic] or contemptuous motions of the fingers’. He defines a fico, in flip, as ‘An act of contempt performed with the hands, expressing a fig for you’, which completes the circle and leaves us neither wiser nor greater trained. while, sycophant additionally intended ‘an informer, tale-bearer, malicious accuser’, and ‘a suggest, servile, cringing, or abject flatterer; a parasite, toady, lickspittle’. that's its present which means. Lickspittle is a fantastic notice, now not a lot heard nowadays. As its shape indicates, it refers to an individual licking spittle. it really is outlined within the OED2 as which means ‘an abject parasite, a toady’. Francis Grose’s 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue defines it as a ‘parasite or talebearer’. this is often fascinating, because it harks again to the unique that means of sycophant: ‘an informer’ — a which means which OED2 doesn't know for lickspittle. different derivatives of the Greek root phainein contain myth, the that means of which has drifted steadily: ‘a spectral apparition; delusive mind's eye; hallucination; creative layout; a supposition resting on no good grounds; caprice, changeful temper; capricious or arbitrary choice; amorous inclination; severe judgement in issues of paintings or elegance’. Fancy is a variation of myth, and stocks all of those meanings. whereas closing a trifling variation of delusion, fancy has additionally taken on an self reliant life. It skill ornamental or complex, and will indicate costliness. As a verb it additionally capability to love, recognize, or wish. much less typically, fancy additionally ability: ‘the prize-ring or those that common it; the paintings of boxing; the paintings or perform of breeding animals on the way to strengthen issues of traditional good looks or excellence’. It doesn't percentage those meanings with delusion. through extension, a fancier is ‘one who has a liking for, and a severe judgement in, a few category of curiosities, vegetation, animals, and so forth.

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