Tag Archives: language

Playing with language

7 Jun


Bosom, breast, hell.

Titters erupted as each of these words were uttered as we began our study of A Midsummer Night’s DreamNot everyone laughed. Some remained quiet, but eyes grew large. You could see the wheels turning behind those eyes, wondering if these were bad words.  I almost laughed as I interrupted two girls arguing over whether or not virgin was a cuss word. Really???

Words have changed meaning within my lifetime. When I was young we didn’t wear flip flops, we wore thongs, but I never use that term because it has taken on a whole new meaning.

Several years ago, I was discussing My Side of the Mountain with a lit circle. They giggled when Jean Craighead George wrote about the crotch of a tree. They only knew one meaning of the word crotch and it was another unmentionable.

I recently learned that troll no longer refers to a mythical being or a person who sows discord on the Internet. It is also an adjective for a bad thing, as in  That test was really troll. Who knew? There are fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but no trolls.  The closest thing to a troll in Shakespeare, is Caliban from The Tempest. I wonder what Will would make of these evolutions of the English language?



A little linguistic fun: A Slice of Life Story

6 Oct


Ah, the Humanities.

Last week we started our year long study of Latin stems. Additionally, we did a jigsaw activity about Populism. Before we could start the activity, though, I thought I’d connect the two.

I opened the lesson by writing pop=people on the board and explained that it  was a stem we’d meet later but tied into that day’s lesson. Naturally, I asked kids for other words they knew that had “pop” in it. I got the expected responses: population, popular. Then someone asked, “What about popcorn?”. We all knew they were trying to be funny.

All eyes looked at me. I replied, as they expected, “That one doesn’t work because that comes from the verb “pop” which is not from Latin.” I paused and thought a bit, then added, “However, it could apply because popcorn is the snack of the people!”



Favorite words: a Slice of Life Story

30 Dec


I love words. That is not really surprising to those who know me. I read and write a lot. I speak English and Spanish well, have taught French and learned Danish while living in Denmark for a year. I’ve been trying to think of my One Little Word (OLW) and I think I’ve been overthinking it. So, instead of writing about my OLW, I will just write about some words I really like.

Bungalow: I just love the way this words roll out of my mouth. I think this was the first word I fell in love with. I first came across it when we moved to Abitibi Canyon, when I was in grade 2. It was a company town set up around the hydro-electric dam.  The houses were set up in 2 circles: the old colony and the new colony. We lived in the old colony, first in a 2 story green house, then in a pink bungalow where I had my own room for the first time ever.

Hygge, hyggelig: These are 2 Danish words that are hard to translate. The first is the verb; the second the adjective. They are usually translated into some form of cozy or coziness, but that doesn’t really capture the essence of these words. Here are Danes explaining it

Se demander: this French verb is generally translated as to wonder, to ask oneself. I fell in love with this word in  French class at the University of Toronto, where my instructor, a middle-aged French woman had the cutest way of saying “I wonder” in English. It is a verb of self-reflection and curiosity.

Moist:  Moist sound like what it is. A perfect word, really.

Bubble: This is just a funny word. try saying it when you are angry.

Behoove:  A nice verb to use when you want someone to do something, but don’t want to sound preachy or bossy, though that is what you are being.

What are your favorite words?

Never Lost for Words

10 Oct


Three brilliant people came together to crete this marvelous book: Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet and Peter Roget. Bryant and Sweet have come together again to create The Right Word,  a beautiful biography of Roget, the man behind Roget’s Thesaurus. 

Peter Roget created his first book of word lists at age 8.


Like William Carlos Williams,the subject of Bryant & Sweet’s A River of Words,  Roget became a doctor and did his word work in his spare time. Sweet’s illustrations capture Roget’s obsession with synonyms.


Bryant’s prose let’s us see into the mind of someone obsessed with words.  “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them into long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.” She creates a picture of a sensitive man and makes us aware that Roget wasn’t merely a reclusive scholar. He wanted  his thesaurus to have a democratizing effect: “I want everyone to be able to use my word book, not just doctors, politicians, and lawyers, but cobblers, fishmongers, and factory workers.”

Whether you read this for business (job, work, vocation, livelihood, métier) or pleasure (amusement, enjoyment, thrill, bliss) you will not be disappointed.

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