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Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change…
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Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning (édition 2008)

par Sol Steinmetz

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"My favorite popular word book of the year" -William Safire,NY Times6/22/2008 A fun, new approach to examining etymology! Many common English words started out with an entirely different meaning than the one we know today. For example: The wordadamantcame into English around 855 C.E. as a synonym for 'diamond,'very different from today's meaning of the word: "utterly unyielding in attitude or opinion." Before the year 1200, the wordsillymeant "blessed," and was derived from Old Englishsaelig,meaning "happy." This word went through several incarnations before adopting today's meaning: "stupid or foolish." InSemantic Antics, lexicographer Sol Steinmetz takes readers on an in-depth, fascinating journey to learn how hundreds of words have evolved from their first meaning to the meanings used today.… (plus d'informations)
Membre:Grant.Barrett
Titre:Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning
Auteurs:Sol Steinmetz
Info:Random House Reference (2008), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 288 pages
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Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning par Sol Steinmetz

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This book presents us with a collection of English words whose meanings have changed over time, complete with explanations of where they originally came from, what they used to mean, and how they evolved to where they are now. Each word gets about three paragraphs, so it's not a terribly long and in-depth discussion, but it covers the basic ideas, and includes citations and examples.

Individually, I found a lot of these very interesting, and there were a few nice "aha, that's where that phrase comes from!" moments, as I realized that some usage or other that always seemed a bit odd to me has, in fact, merely preserved an obsolete sense of a word. But even though I consider myself something of a word-lover, and even though I generally only read through a few of entries at a time, after a while it all started to blur together and it became hard not to feel like I was reading the same thing over and over again. Still, as a whole, it illustrates some interesting general patterns in word evolution, including positive or neutral terms becoming negative, specific terms becoming general, literal meanings being lost in favor of metaphorical ones, and words from surprisingly diverse origins all ending up as disparaging terms for "a loose woman."

I did spot a couple of small mistakes here. In the entry on "browse," Steinmetz appears to be completely confused about what an internet browser is, and his contention that "the astronomical meaning of eccentric has only historical relevance today" would come as a surprise to modern astronomers, for whom the term is still entirely relevant. But those aren't exactly major problems. ( )
  bragan | Jun 29, 2012 |
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"My favorite popular word book of the year" -William Safire,NY Times6/22/2008 A fun, new approach to examining etymology! Many common English words started out with an entirely different meaning than the one we know today. For example: The wordadamantcame into English around 855 C.E. as a synonym for 'diamond,'very different from today's meaning of the word: "utterly unyielding in attitude or opinion." Before the year 1200, the wordsillymeant "blessed," and was derived from Old Englishsaelig,meaning "happy." This word went through several incarnations before adopting today's meaning: "stupid or foolish." InSemantic Antics, lexicographer Sol Steinmetz takes readers on an in-depth, fascinating journey to learn how hundreds of words have evolved from their first meaning to the meanings used today.

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