A Word With You

What are we, a bunch of Sheep?
What are we, a bunch of Sheep? (Photo credit: fred1st)

Funny how, all of a sudden, you’ll lose your confidence and second-guess yourself about one thing or another. Yesterday, for me, it was spelling.

Twice in one email I resisted my first impulse to spell words the way that seemed reflexively correct, and checked to be sure.

I would have gotten them right, but next time, I’ll remember these helps from dailywritingtips.

Eminent vs. Imminent

Eminent means “prominent” or “conspicuous” and is generally associated with accomplished people; imminent means “about to happen,” often with the sense of something of import or involving danger. To help you remember which is which, think of an eminent person as one who emits greatness, and connect imminent with immediate.

Whether vs. Wether

Wether is a prime example of a word that will slip past the spell check. It is easily confused with two of its homonyms, whether and weather. Flying fingers find it easy to miss the single letter that separates them. Unless you’re a farmer, you might not even know that wether is either a:male sheep or ram (the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology traces its roots to Old English, Old High German, Old Norse and Goth) or a: castrated ram or billy goat (according to A Word A Day).http://www.dailywritingtips.com/wether-weather-whether/

▶ Then yesterday afternoon on NPR (I only overheard while passing through so don’t know details) an interview with a linguist (?) with a new book who was looking at the history of words. The portion I caught was talking about the words that American English had incorporated seamlessly into our everyday language. He spoke of the word “lea” meaning meadow, but even more anciently, a clearing as for a new pasture or town. Hence, think of all the villages and towns of today that began as a clearing in the forest. You can probably think of some town names near you that end in -ly or -ley.

▶ Lastly and alarmingly, read how words relating to nature are being replaced by terms from the “built environment.” This piece from Child and Nature Network (Is the Natural World Disappearing from Children’s Books and Education?) describes the disappearance of nature images from Caldicott Book Award-winning children’s’ books, and the changes in the Oxford Junior Dictionary.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Caldecott …. gotcha! Sorry, I just couldn’t resist!!
    Caldecott, Randolph (1846—86), English graphic artist and watercolor painter. He is noted for his illustrations for children’s books. A medal awarded annually for the illustration of U.S. children’s books is named for him.

  2. You might enjoy The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester – it’s about the creation of the OED and our regional library has is.