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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:34 pm

• smattering •

Pronunciation: smæd-ê-ring • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A small amount or number, a trace, a touch.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the noun from the verb smatter "to chatter idly not knowing what you are talking about" and "to do something superficially, to dabble." A person who dabbles is a smatterer who has a smattering of knowledge about whatever he or she smatters in.

In Play: A smattering of knowledge can be a dangerous thing: "Henry knows a smattering about fly fishing: he has a very graceful cast, but the fly catches his pants two times out of five." It is a useful word to emphasize total absence: "After 20 years in Denver, Ella Minnow Pea didn't have a smattering of her former south Georgia accent."

Word History: The verb smatter has been around since the early 15th century with the sense of "to talk idly, chatter". Where it was before that, no one really knows; it may have been an imitation of actual chattering. Old English did inherit it from Ancient Germanic since we find smetern "to chatter" in Middle High German and smattra "to patter, rattle" in Swedish. It might have been borrowed from Old Norse, the ancestor of Swedish, during the Viking "visits" to the north English coast from 793-1042, but there is no reliable evidence that this is the case.
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Perry Lassiter
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:27 pm

What exactly is "high German" or "low German"? I think North vs South, but it could mean cultured vs crude vernacular, similar to Oxford English vs Cockney,

Philip Hudson
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Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:23 am

Old Dr H, my German professor, told me that High German and Low German mean the altitude of the land in which the language was spoken. In German it is Hochdeutsch and Plattdeutsch. Platt actually means flat, not low, in German. High German became the official language of Germany primarily because Luther spoke High German so the Bible was translated into High German. I think Low German has pretty much died out.

Dr H was from Bavaria but he went to university in Northern Germany where he picked up the local German accent. He could not afford to visit his home until he graduated and got a job. When he came home and spoke to his mother, she began crying and said, “Hans you have become a Prussian!”

There were many variations in the German language across Germany in the past.

One German dialect, still in use, is Frisian. I had a work associate who spoke Frisian as well as regular High German. The Frisian Islands are on the north coast of Holland and Germany. They are sort of like the barrier islands off Texas.

Don't dis the Cockneys. I told a Cockney that the word Cockney came from "cocks egg", hinting, he assumed, that Cockney men aren’t sure of their manhood. I believe my etymology was accurate. It is a good thing we were using e-mail and he was in Australia, because he said that if he ever saw me he would cut out my guts and strangle me with them. I have met some fine Cockneys in England. Interestingly, many of them are of African descent. You also meet them in the Caribbean.
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