Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My budding linguist


Out of the mouths of babes. Yesterday my six-year-old daughter inquired: "Mommy, why did the person who made up words make up bad words we can't say?"

Why indeed, as once again I found myself speechless.

3 comments:

alwaysane said...

I know... Just flip through the GRE book and you'll find tons of them.

Euonymous said...

Ha, Always, it's interesting that you've seized on (what I think) is the pronunciation of abstruse English words . . . Having developed a thread here on profanity, I was responding to (what I thought) was my daughter's inquiry about curse words -- words that exist in language, but are taboo. What I found wise in her statement was her implicit observation that it's silly that we have some words which are acceptable to use and speak, and some which are not . . . i.e., why even have those words, then? What's the difference, if language is language (and language doesn't have values, people do)?

But if you'll forgive me for being profanely associative (kind of my calling card), it's interesting to the think of the GRE "word list" as somehow conjuring the profane, which is to say, it annoints a certain set of words as being privileged to a discrete segment of the speaking (educated) population, so as to render ordinary, prosaic English somehow undesirable and taboo. . .

If that ain't grad school, I don't know what is! :)

Thanks for posting, A.

Euonymous said...

And btw, the Princeton Review used to publish a word list of the words most frequently used in GREs. I know it sent my scores flying!

And it's interesting how the list revives the intents of the original English dictionaries, called "hard word" lists, and which didn't strive to include every word in English but only those considered most difficult. . .