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Posts Tagged: words

Authors’ Pet Words and What They Reveal

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How much do an author’s most-used words reveal about his or her thought process?

Quite a lot, according to this New Yorker essay on pet words both common and uncommon, both consciously selected and inadvertent. One of many deeply interesting examples:

Even if we’d never read Milton, we might surmise something of his vast, magisterial temperament on being told that “law” emerges some fifty times in his complete poems.

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These Words All Have Neoflects Coming Off Them

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Did you know that, like aglets for the end of a shoelace or tittle for the dot atop an i, there’s a whole delightful host of terms for the visual cues used in comic strips?

Invented chiefly by cartoonist Mort Walker in a half-joking illustrated mini-dictionary called The Lexicon of Comicana, they include plewds (the big drops of sweat that spring off the foreheads of anxious characters), spurls (the woozy spirals above a characters who’s had too much to drink), and nittles (any star-shaped symbol that subs in for real letters when a character cusses).

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The Evolution of Language

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How did humans learn to talk, anyway?

Vervet monkeys use different words (or, at least, “different alarm calls to refer to different types of predators, such as snakes and leopards”) but don’t arrange them into diverse kinds of sentences. Songbirds, meanwhile, create elaborate sentences with a variety of notes, but the notes don’t act as words the way the monkey alarm calls do.

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