Saturday, June 10, 2006

Words can be wonderful. Wretchedly worrying, too, at times.

Words never fail to beguile me. I did not know till recently that the opposite of 'esoteric' ('known to a privileged few') was 'exoteric'. Had you noticed that 'guerrilla' (related to the French ‘guerre’ = ‘war’) has a double 'r' as well as a double 'l'? And that 'restaurateur' ('owner of a restaurant') drops the 'n'? I hadn't, I'm afraid. I was probably using the wrong spellings thus far. The scales fell from my eyes after the authoritative and entertaining Mind The Gaffe:The Penguin Guide to Common Errors in English by Professor Larry Trask fell into my hands. Don't miss either the excellent review (at this website) or the book. By the way, Stark teaches linguistics at the University of Sussex. What inspired him to write the Gaffe book? The oodles of mistakes he found in the answer papers he had to mark as a part of his job, it seems.

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