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« Pakistan: End of the affair? (omar ali) | Main | Criticism of Islam: free speech vs hate speech (Razib) »

June 24, 2011


A delightful post! The real fun is in exploring the etymology of some of these words. "Ludibrious" derives from a series of forms having to do with play and sport. Among the significances of "freck" are greed and covetousness, but also boldness and courageousness.

There's more to this. The former linguistics major who posted it remarks on "the amazing fluidity of language," here respecting the shifting contours of the lexicon over generations. These days it isn't hard to imagine somebody using the 'net to campaign to revive any of these words, introducing a new or stronger force of linguistic change than any recognized heretofore. (An example: santorum.) But that process appears from our standpoint, poised as we are in the midst of the technological shift, not to be fluid at all. It seems artificial, the consequence of a concerted and conscious human effort, rather than a more natural reflection of demographics.

I would question her choice of Brannigan as an extinct word.We have a pub here called 'Molly Brannigan's'.

I was going to mention recalling a pub or restaurant somewhere with the name Brannigan. According to OED, the word likely derives from a proper name, and it is not there identified as obsolete. It includes examples of the word being used as recently as 1978 and 1983. So the poster was playing fast and loose, although she did recite the OED's comment that it is rarely used. I think at this point we're brabbling.

Yes, Brannigan probably derives from a proper name. Irish, Scottish?

As for technological shift of language being more conscious and strained, I wouldn't necessarily agree. Even there, things sometimes do happen naturally for the sake of brevity or precision. The results are not always pretty of course. Unless you are adept at poetic "tweeting at twitterlight."

As for language going from one realm of specialty to another, say for example, religion, art, craft, science or warfare, take a look at comment #5 (zackoz) on this excellent blog post on co-evolution by Carl Zimmer.

How interesting, I was unaware that words did become obsolete. I disagree with the new craze of putting in made up words that are simply abreviations to make texting easier.

The smallest free form in language is a word. Usually a word will include a stem or root, which may include one or more affixes. Sentences, phrases, and clauses are made up of words.

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