Orts, scraps, and fragments from my days spent dictionary-diving and co-hosting the language-loving public radio show, "A Way with Words"
posted by Martha at 11:54 AM
Martha I'm glad to have stumbled upon your blog! I look forward to your new show. Greetings from Louisville, again! --Michael Seewer
Yes! It would make a great ad. Will I see it when I travel to San Diego next week?
Caller, a seventh-grader named Brooke, says she thinks the word "prehistoric" is illogical, since there can't be anything before history.Co-host: . . .In this case [determining the meaning of "prehistoric" by looking at the meanings of its parts] doesn't quite work, and here's the reason why: . . .We don't mean, with "history" or "prehistoric," everything that has ever happened to anyone or anything anywhere. What we really mean is history that has been recorded, meaning the "continuous written chronology of important events." English is not logical or orderly, so sometimes splitting up words like that just doesn't really give you the complete information to the meaning of the word." Poor Brooke! It's clear that she's only more confused than before by this verbiage. There is no problem whatsoever in determining the meaning of "prehistoric" from its component parts. The only relevant point is that the meaning of "history" that occurs in the word "prehistoric" is history as a record of past events. Although co-host mentions this -- or rather quotes this from some source without attribution -- the relevant point is totally lost amid the inarticulate gobbledegook. If only someone had suggested that she check a dictionary.Martha's point about what might have happened before the Big Bang is a little closer to Brooke's question, but only a little.But Brooke is obviously wise beyond her years. She'll figure this out, and will grow up to become a famous philosopher.
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Ort: "A fragment of food left over from a meal . . . figuratively, a fragment, esp. of wisdom, wit, knowledge."
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