Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Word Nerd Wednesday

I'm going to get t-shirts made with the slogan: Word Nerd on them.
Word: concept, designation, expression, idiom, lexeme, locution, morpheme, name, phrase, sound, term, usage, utterance, vocable...

Nerd: Part of Speech: noun; Definition: geek

Synonyms: dolt, dork, dweeb, fool, goober, goofball, jerk*, oaf, techie, trekkie, weirdo

Notes: a geek is any smart person with an obsessive interest, a nerd is the same but also lacks social grace, and a dweeb is a mega-nerd

(source: dictionary.com; thesaurus.com)

I think, if I brought a bunch/slew/gross/group of Word Nerd t-shirts to a writer's conference, they'd sell well. Because we writers are word nerds (techically, "geeks", but that doesn't rhyme as well), and we admit it. We think about the merits of words, their sound, their meaning, their etymology. (Word Nerds know words like "etymology".)

I have proof of this. Earlier this week, I posted a query to my editor forum (where my fellow Lyrical editors and I go to ask questions about...words. And spellings. And other editorly things). My question was: should I keep the British or use the American spelling of the word: draughty. (As in, "the tower was draughty".)

It became quite the discussion. "Draught" is the British way to spell "draft". But, it's acceptable to keep that spelling if one is referring to the drinking of a beverage. And, in America, we do have draught beer (sometimes, depending on the beermaker--brewmeister, beer shaper, brewer...). We also have draft/draught horses, sometimes called dray horses.

Why do we have dray horses which pull drays, but not draft horses which pull drafts (or draught horses which pull draughts)?

My question created a clabber of geek speak. (Clabber, by the way, is a word which means "to clout or coagulate"[when used as a verb] or "clot" or "blob" [when used as a noun]. Oddly enough, it fits in this situation. We created a blob of blabber.)

Part of the problem--for English writers, anyway--is that our language hasbeen influenced by so many other languages and rules and spellings that half the time, you don't know if you're right or wrong. But we writers...we know. And we're proud [Middle English, from Old English prd, from Old French prou, prud, brave, virtuous, oblique case of prouz, from Vulgar Latin *prdis, from Late Latin prde, advantageous, from Latin prdesse, to be good : prd-, for (variant of pr-, with d on the model of red-, prevocalic variant of re-, back, again; see pro-1) + esse, to be; see es- in Indo-European roots.]
 of it.

Having a command (noun:the possession or exercise of controlling authority: expertise; mastery)
of the language is no small skill. At least, that's what we like to tell ourselves in multisyllabic ways. Because we are...Word Nerds. :)

So...wanna buy a t-shirt?


  1. Great post!

    I love words, but I wouldn't love having to explain my t-shirt every five minutes. That said, I'd still wear it. ;)

    You know, you really don't realise the differences between UK/US until your (American) editor starts adding "huh?" and "WHA?!" to your manuscript? ;-)


  2. *Glares over the top of his cup of tea.*