Word of the day

Brachylogy (Gram.); ‘short speech’. Irregular shortening down of expression. Less sugar, This is no use & A is as good or better than B, are brachylogies for Less of sugar, This is of no use, & A is as good as or better than B; the first is established as idiomatic, the others are still regarded by many as illegitimate.

The definition above comes straight from Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1926). Whenever I come across that question of which famous people, dead or alive, you’d invite to a dinner party, I always scan the answer to see if anyone has picked Henry Watson Fowler. To date, no one has, but why wouldn’t you want to share dessert with the foremost expert on the English language? A dinner guest who repays the chef with detailed grammar tips and examples of correct usage? That’s worth at least three courses to me!

And from today’s Guardian, here’s another Irish person who quite likes old words:

There’s a challenge to unfamiliar words, or even vaguely recognised ones; you can’t “skim-read” as normal, but must make your way in a stately fashion through each sentence. Each is a surprise in itself; your mind is constantly forced to check itself, think back over what it’s processed, and ask, “Do I know what that means? Do I think I know? Can I guess at the meaning from its context?” (And sometimes, you don’t really want to know anyway.)

I love old words anyway, and those moments when you stumble upon one that’s strange to you. It’s especially nice if the word itself is, well, especially nice. For instance, “slumbrously”, which I came across recently in a review – what a gorgeous assemblage of letters and sounds. “Slumbrously” … you can almost physically feel the sensation of drifting into sleep, sinking drowsily onto a soft pillow in a cradle of dreaming.

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