Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday's Word of the Week

Today I am starting what I hope will be a weekly fixture on my blog – Wednesday's Word of the Week or WWW. Under this sufficiently corny title I propose to examine one noteworthy word a week.

What defines noteworthiness? In this case, noteworthiness is determined simply by the fickle whim of my fancy. If the word is of interest in the translation world, or if it is one of the many words for which I have developed an unnatural attachment or loathing, it will probably end up here.

As a true word nerd, I feel that it is appropriate to start this tradition with the word:


Philology 1. Love of learning and literature; the study of literature, in a wide sense, including grammar, literary criticism and interpretation, the relation of literature and written records to history, etc.; literary or classical scholarship; polite learning.
(Oxford English Dictionary)

Philologie n.f. 1. Connaissance des belles-lettres; étude historique des textes. 2. Étude d'une langue par l'analyse critique des textes.
(Le Petit Robert)

What strikes me about the English definition of philology, is the word "love". We do not often see this word in the definition of the various -ologies. Geology? Archaeology? Anthropology? None of them have built in the Greek word for love: philo. These words are confined to meaning simply "the study of x"; they do not imply that the student also loves the object of his study.

While "the love of learning and literature" may be an obsolete definition, it still aptly describes today's word nerds- the translators. We are all language lovers:

-philologists to the core.

If you are the kind of person who is interested in esoteric words and their history in the English language, I suggest following the Oxford English Dictionary's (OED) Word of the Day.

And you? What would your Word of the Week be?

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