This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Nuts and Bolts: more than symbols.

Words can be lovely, sour, barren, sweet, chiming, threatening, cruel, shimmering, flat, curvaceous...

Some ugly words are a nuisance, but then if something is nasty, then perhaps the word for it should be nasty, too.

Harsh, for example, isn't a very lovely word, but it is quite... well...harsh.

That must be a good thing. Mustn't it?

A lot of philosophers have spent a lot of time thinking about this sort of thing. Now, spending years thinking about something all too often stops people being able to explain anything very much about it to the rest of us, but how about this: how about if we divide words into those that describe themselves, and those that don't?

For instance, short is, indeed, a short word: but long isn't a long one.

Abbreviated isn't abbreviated, but outstretched is outstretched.

A polysyllable is a polysyllable, spelled is spelled, and word is a word.

On the other hand, a duck-billed platypus isn't of itself a duck-billed platypus. Neither are...well, most things. Like turnips, underpants and nostrils.

There are a few odd words which don't really fit into either category. Neologism, which means a new word, was indeed a new word when it was first made up, but now it's quite old.

Rhyming is sometimes rhyming: but here it isn't.When rhyming is chiming, though, it is.

The sort of word that means itself is called autological, and the sort of word which doesn't is called heterological.

But of course it's the thought that actually counts.

Word To Use today: an autological one. How about the name of a language you speak? You'll have to say it in that language, of course: English is English, but Anglais isn't.


  1. My head is spinning and I'm going to lie down in a darkened room!

  2. Hope your dreams aren't haunted by outstretched English neologisms, Adele.


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