Posts Tagged ‘language’
I’ve written a piece for the BBC about words beginning with “tw-”, and why people enjoy coining them on Twitter.
“Flick through a dictionary and you’ll notice something about the English language’s ‘tw’ words. We have a few related to ‘two’: twin, twelfth, twilight and so on. And there’s a tiny minority of what you might call fairly sensible words: tweezers, twig and of course tweed.
“The rest, though, tend to be of a type that’s more playful or, depending on taste, more grating. ‘Tw-’ words can be about inanity or ignorance: twit, twerp, twonk or twaddle. They can suggest lightness, smallness or delicacy: tweak, twiddle or twinkle. Or they can flag up that you’re being self-consciously old-fashioned: ’twas and ’twere; ‘twixt and ‘tween. All very twee.”
Sadly there was no room for the etymology of “twonk” – coined/popularised, according to the Telegraph, by John Sullivan to give Del Boy a non-sweary swear word; nor for gay slang “twink” (“with a slender build, little or no body hair, and no facial hair”).
Also, now that we know that “twilight” relates to “two”, why not let’s enjoy some twilights I’ve seen?
- More on exciting/annoying new words in my piece on Nudge, Blink, the Magnetic Middle &c.
- Props to Michael Rosen, Sadanand Dhume and languagehat.
“Others suggest [that] those of us hooked on crosswords might want to justify the time passed by pointing to the large vocabulary we’ve amassed – or, perhaps, to our pleonasm, to our Brobdingnagian prolixity. Well, boo-poo to that. (I admit I enjoyed learning the word ‘pleach’ from last Tuesday’s Times, but it may be many years until I get to use it in a sentence near a hedge.)”
It’ll be a mixture of the week’s best and funniest clues, tips for n00bs and features on awesome stuff like when crosswords feature in programmes like Rubicon and The Hour.
- Topics [ongoing update]: Bletchley Park; Is cheating cheating?; The Ten Commandments of cryptic ethics; Which newspaper is most crossword-friendly?; American vs British crosswords; Where do you solve?; Times Crossword Championship; Meet Anne R Bradford; the 1920s crossword moral panic; what I’ve learned from cryptics
- Meet the Setter [ditto]: Paul; Enigmatist; Anax; Tramp; Boatman
- For beginners [ditto]: Hidden answers; double definitions; soundalikes
- What does each letter mean? [ditto]: A
- Best clues [ditto]: Meta, Morse and Arsenal; Lord Sugar, Rupert Murdoch and the flesh lance; gamesmanship, ice cream and haiku; Elton John, hidden Damons and Moses; Smiley and Nixon; Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and David Cameron; Blur v Oasis; chess and the Tube; booze clues; e-ologisms; should themes be announced?; loos in clues; the ‘scrambled eggs’ chestnut; Occupy London Stock Exchange; new words in Chambers; Romeo and Juliet and Ant and Dec; booze and Dylan Thomas; Erdős-Bacon numbers; Yule clues; cryptic Dickens
- Photo is of Guardian 25,402 by Puck. The only answer I’ve put in is wrong. “A day in dopey stupor, endlessly like t-h-i-s? (6,3)” should give SPACED OUT, not SPREAD OUT as I thought. This bodes ill.
- In 2009, I explained to foreigners why some British families do a jumbo crossword at Christmas.