The working vocabulary of the average 14-year-old has declined in the last 50 years from 25,000 words to 10,000. Language reflects the depth of our human experience. Because we think in words, are we losing the capacity to say what we feel? Like, whatever.
Was your first love one of these? Have you ever found yourself crushing on one when you yourself were just a girl?
Pronunciation: hob–uh l-dee-hoi
n. “clumsy, ungainly, or awkward youth”
1530s, of uncertain origin. First element is probably hob in its sense of “clown, prankster” (hobgoblin), the second element perhaps is Middle French de haye “worthless, untamed, wild,” literally “of the hedge.”
Image by State Library of New South Wales Collection via Wikimedia Commons.
There’s something inherently loveable about a hobbledehoy, isn’t there?
After all, wasn’t Gilbert Blythe a bit of a hobbledehoy when he first met Anne with an E?
Probably all the great tall, dark, and handsome figures in our daydreams were clumsy, perpetually awkward youths … once upon a time.
For most of us, the process of learning English happened at a time of life when we weren’t as inclined to question the rationale behind unreasonable (and sometimes ridiculous) spellings.
But, consider the task of trying your tongue at English as an outsider, whether tourist or immigrant.
Here’s a simple sentence to put it in perspective:
“I would like to buy a certain fruit for my recipe.”
Easy for you to read, right?
Now, read through it as someone who may know the basic RULES of English, but doesn’t yet grasp the commonly accepted American notion of tossing all of those rules out the window …
“I wooled like to bu-yee a kertane froo-it for my re-sipe.”
Something like that, anyway.
photo by Evan-Amos via Wikimedia Commons
While it’s tough not to chuckle, you can see how utterly frustrating it must be to decipher the everyday dialog we take for granted.
“While there are clear trends in words non-native speakers mispronounce (due to irregularities in English spelling), words that are in principle hard to pronounce depend much more heavily on each individual speaker’s linguistic background,” explains Czech linguist and mathematician Jakub Marian, author of Most Common Mistakes in English. “Words containing an ‘h’ (as in ‘hello’) are difficult to pronounce for native speakers of romance languages and Russian, since there is no ‘h’-sound in their mother tongues. Words containing a ‘th’-sound (either as in ‘think’ or as in that’) are hard for almost everybody apart from Spaniards and Greeks, whose languages are two of the few that contain those sounds.”
Now that your word wheels are spinning with this new perspective, try a few more words that Marian and many others deem difficult for non-native speakers:
P.S. Allow me to punctuate this post with a poem called “The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité in 1922. It brilliantly boasts hundreds of peculiar English pronunciations.
Samson might inspire this in you, ladies … or Fabio. Possibly Jennifer Aniston … or Carrot Top. Marge Simpson, definitely. Crystal Gale? For sure.
book cover by Katalin Szegedi via Wikimedia Commons
What is it? By now, you’ve figured out it’s something to do with the follicles atop one’s head. Specifically,
(n.) running your fingers through the hair of someone you love.
So, it begs the question, do balding men inspire the same kind of odd behavior in those of us smitten with them? If we can’t run our fingers through the hairs of our beloveds, will a nice rub or caress do the trick?
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.
Someone get Mrs. Bruce Willis on the phone. Tell her it’s an emergency of the cafune type.
In other words, it’s a real doozy of a closing argument, getting the last word, or in today’s slang, a mic drop.
Lest we find ourselves giggling too much at our funny-sounding new word, let me bring you some sorrowful solemnity: sockdologising likely was nearly the last word President Abraham Lincoln ever heard. During the performance of Tom Taylor’s “Our American Cousin,” assassin John Wilkes Booth (who knew the play well) waited for the laughline,
“Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old mantrap!”
Amid the noise as the audience responded in laughter and applause, Booth fired the fatal shot.
Sniffle. Well, now it’s my heart that feels unusually heavy … almost sockdolager-esque you could say.
Lincoln in ‘thinking pose’, 1862, via Wikimedia Commons
I know, it sounds like a vitamin supplement, doesn’t it?
“Say, honey, could you pass me 500 mg of Metanoia, please?”
If only it were that easy. Change in a bottle, if you don’t mind. Take two and call me in the morning?
noun meta•noia \[met-uh–noi–uh]
Origin and Etymology:
Greek, from metanoiein: to change one’s mind, repent, from meta- + noein to think, from nous mind
First Known Use: 1577
So, perhaps it’s less about switching the style of your coiffure from beehive to French twist, or your indecision over a jelly donut vs. a cheese omelet, and more of a spiritual change, a lifestyle change, almost a conversion.
If you aren’t one now, you probably were one, back in your teenage days. A clinomaniac, I mean. I’d wager there’s one in every house … if you don’t know who it is, crack open those peepers and move the covers off your face; it’s probably you.
Is clinomania a thing due to the actual sleeping part of being in bed, or is it the comfort of a nice mattress, the softness of your favorite quilt, the easy access to your nightstand TBR pile of novels, or because it’s where you get some high quality snuggling?
No, I’m not suffering from a bout of sudden-onset backwardsness.
But, it is a backwards question mark. A percontation point, if you will.
When would you use such a thing? Oh, far more often than you might think …
For instance: when feeling a bit snappy, a might peckish, a tad sarcastic, or a wee bit snarky.
It’s something called irony punctuation, and it’s a form of notation used to denote sarcasm.
Um, yes, please.
No need to insert an eye-rolling emoji, a #sarcasm, or an explanation for your text in the form of parentheses any longer.
You may think that this is a newfangled, modern-day addition to our English language and punctuation, but you’d be wrong. The percontation point was invented by English printer Henry Denham in the 1580s. And we thought we were the most sarcastic of the generations … all hail, Grandad Snark!
You can use the percontation point (sometimes called the irony mark) as you see fit. In a way, it’s used to sneakily admit there is more to your writing than meets the eye. A sarcastic layer of meaning might have been missed the first time through.
Essentially, it’s a grammar tool used to make the not-so-perky reader feel even less perky. Now, if I could only find it on my keyboard. #percontation point!
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