I didn’t mean to stay away so long but for some curious reason many companies need word lists, word games, and glossaries this month and those who come to us (Lexiteria) have kept me very busy
One of our on-going projects here at Lexiteria is a dictionary of English affixes (prefixes and suffixes) including most Latin and Greek stems. The project is about 2/3 finished. Most of the words are either highly technical scientific terms that we are unfamiliar with or scientific terms we are marginally familiar with, so it is a time-consuming project.
In those giddy moments toward the end of the day, we begin to see potentialities in these words that were never intended by their creators. We even run some highly technical terms as Good Words at alphaDictionary just for fun. For example, when we ran across the medical term oocephalus “person with an egg-shaped head”, it struck me as the same as egghead. The latest example I couldn’t resist is pygalgia “buttocks pain”–pain in the butt. Look for it in December.
This exercise led me to question why we are interested in esoteric words with meanings already served by ordinary words. In science, of course, the purpose is unambiguous communications, so pygalgia was created to refer exclusively to phyical pain in the gluteus maximus. There is little chance that such words will wander away from medical usage and make their way into the sea of colloquial expressions we paddle our lives through.
So why are the rest of us interested in these words at all? Most of us, I would guess, aren’t. However, if you are reading this blog, you are probably among the few overliterate souls who are.
Curiosity is the best reason. Most of us reading this blog are simply fascinated at how words arise, how they are used, and what they tell us about ourselves and our history. Medical terms tell us a lot about Greek while legal terms introduce us to Latin. English is rich with “borrowings” from other languages. Technical terms like these, then, provide us with a kind of low-level language learning and, don’t forget, to know another language is to possess another soul.