May 18, 2005

It's all Greek to me.

I was going to spend all morning complaining this morning, but eBay got in the way, and I have to send out a huge pile of boxes, so my apologies for the brevity.

I really wanted to complain about use of the language. English, I'm told by scholars, is the second hardest language to learn, behind Nipponese. Filled with traps for the unwary, and assembled like our country, out of thousands of bits and pieces, it can still be a beautiful thing when used properly. And that's the trick to it: when used properly.

And don't think I'm suggesting that we all speak like Victorian ladies and gentlemen trying to ascertain a partner's willingness for the night. No, I'm suggesting that I have found it very pleasing to have a certain way about me when I speak. And don't even try to think that I am stilted and high-flown, because that's also far from the case. I don't speak like a Harvard professor, and doubt that I ever would want to. I find, however, that it's pleasing to me to cut back on my slang and what I've always called "trash words."

This was all sparked yesterday at work; I was browsing a medical dictionary from the late 60's when I ran across an interesting word that I could pronounce: tribade. It's what I assume is the 'medical term' for a woman who takes the role of a man in lesbian sexual relations.

Now up until yesterday I would have simply tossed off the term "bull dyke" or something equally coarse from having no idea that there existed a term that has less negative impact, or for that matter doesn't sound like something little boys whisper in the toilets at recess. Tribade is derived, like so much of our language, from Greek roots, and laughingly the root word in Greek means "to rub," but we won't go there. The nice thing about the word is that you could use it as an off-hand compliment to someone you know who is in that position (no pun intended) if you wanted to discuss their tendencies without using the oafishly coarse word "dyke" or it could be used as a derogatory term to someone you don't care for but don't wish to openly offend. For instance, you could shout it out in your favourite retail store, and 1 will get you 10 that nobody in the building but those in your confidence will know what you just said.

But I run out of time now, so I'll have to pick this thread up later. For now, do me a favor; if you haven't already, google up a Word A Day service, there are numerous free ones out there, and get a new word sent to you each morning, then USE that word. Make it a part of you. See if you can't plane down some of those horrible rough edges.

Tomorrow: being polite.

1 comment:

Kate said...

My favorite word I learned this year is usufruct which comes to us from the Latin usufructus (as do most words peculiar to Louisiana civil law). It means the right to use and to have the fruits of property of another (fruits being natural ones like apples from an orchard, or they can be civil fruits like rent earned from leasing the property). It is great fun, however, to call the cat or my husband a usufruct as the feeling of the word rolling off of the tongue is satisfying when an expletive had wanted to come out and play.