The Richness of English

Hey ~ V here.  At this very moment (11:11am on Monday) I’ve been trying to come up with a topic for this week’s post.  As I sent my son outside to play for the 20th time this morning, I noticed what a beautiful blue sky we have right now.  And boom!  A topic was born.

English is a wonderfully rich language and I’m proud and pleased to write in it.  I’ve heard that some languages have only one word for all shades of red, or in this case, blue but English has 35 names for blue according to this websiteSapphire, cobalt, cerulean, indigo, denim, midnight, ultramarine, periwinkle.  I’m sure there are tons more.  Just open a J Crew catalog.  Do they still make J Crew catalogs?  Oh excuse me, my 1980′s-ness is showing. 

At any rate, the robustness of English comes from its history, which I talked about back on July 6th.  Click here to re-read it.  Lots of different languages came together to create English as we know it and they all left something to remember them by.  Ever wonder why we call animals one name and the food we eat from that same animal by another?  Cow/Beef.  Deer/Venison.  Pig/pork.  Bird/Fowl.  Sheep/nasty.  OK, that last one is just my personal opinion.  But Cow has a nice Anglo Saxon/Celtic sound to it and ‘beef’ sounds an awful lot like Boeuf – the french word.  Pig is Old English, pork is French.  Interestingly, the term “pig-out” only dates back to 1979…OK, perhaps I’ve now spent enough time on Dictionary.com looking at etymology.

When I taught writing in the business world, I talked about the word “heat map”.  This is where you choose a word that brings with it additional meaning.   When someone asks you, “How are you today?” your answer falls somewhere on the heat map. 

Fabulous   Fine   Good   Okay   Eh   Iffy   Bad   Terrible   Disastrous

The gray and black are fairly neutral, the cool colors are varying shades of happy and the hot colors are varying shades of bad.  It’s a heat map. 

Here’s today’s secret: when you find that your writing is heavy on the adverbs and adjectives, try to think of words that you can use that come with meaning already embedded in them to convey how someone said something, or what something looked like.  Take advantage of English’s robustness.  Not all blues are alike and many deserve their own word.

Here’s today’s question: what’s your favorite color?  Mine is blue – in all of her glorious shades, but especially Sapphire.

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7 thoughts on “The Richness of English”

  1. My color is blue. :)

    I laughed out loud about the sheep/nasty thing. I agree there.

    I was just having a conversation with my kids this week about how the English language is so full of words other languages don’t get to have, and how they make our books so vibrant and interesting. This conversation came about when we were discussing their homeschool curriculum for this year, and how I planned to graduate them from language arts to a full English program. Of course, I was met with the old debate, “We don’t need to learn English. We already know it.” KIDS…they think they’re so smart. :)

    Just last night while I was writing, I used the word galvanized to describe my hero’s stare. He threw it at the heroine to put her in motion. Such a colorful word to say, “Move it!”

    Speaking of moving it…this book is not going to write itself.

  2. My color is also blue! My fave shade? A tossup between periwinkle and aqua. I also look dreadful in yellow and most shades of green. I sometimes wear green anyway, just because I like it!

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