Thursday, August 04, 2005

On a Lighter Side

I'm enjoying Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue.

Anecdotally written, Bryson examines the history and development of the English language. For instance:

William Shakespeare wrote 17,677 words in his works, one-tenth of which were original! Can you imagine that every ten words you wrote was a new one? Some of the words he contributed to the language are:

Barefaced, critical, leapfrog, monumental, castigate, submerged, excellent, frugal, radiance, dwindle, countless, majestic, fretful, hurry, hint, gust, lonely, summit, pedant, obscene...

And then there are the phrases he coined:

One fell swoop, in my mind's eye, more in sorrow than in anger, to be in a pickle, vanish into thin air, budge an inch, play fast and loose, go down the primrose path, the milk of human kindness, remembrance of things past (and I thought that was Proust!), the sound and the fury, cold comfort, flesh and blood, foul play, tower of strength...

It's really staggering, the achievement of this man... not only in the breadth and depth of his plays and poetry, but in his contribution to the language itself. English is so much richer as a result of Shakespeare.

And here is a little quiz. Name the only two words in the entire English language that ends in "gry"!