What Is In a Word?

In a previous era, the Bard of Avon made a similar poser pointing to futility of names using a floral allusion, going on to state that what matters is the thing itself, by way of totality of features and characteristics, and not its name howsoever fanciful it may be. Put differently, the play is the thing by which one can catch the conscience of the audience. Couching a lifeless string of scenes in promotional hyperbole sans the element of dramatic content would not amount to anything more than failure of purpose.

So what is in a word? The right answer is a world of meanings, the ‘name’ itself being a word heavily laden with multiplicity of meanings and associations extending with it. Phrases like ‘in the name of the law’, ‘name your price’, and ‘names of books and writers’, appear to spread the meaning beyond the simple notion of labelling. One of the dictionaries assigns the meaning of ‘name’ as a ‘word or words by which an entity is designated and distinguished from others’. The given meaning, however, lacks precision as I know hundreds of people by the name of Ramakrishna, starting all the way from spiritual avatars taking the names of Rama and Krishna in the Vedas. Group a dozen of the same name-bearers in a room and the name ‘Ramakrishna’ ceases to designate or identify any one of them from the others. George Foreman, the former pugilist, named his five sons, George, George, George, George and George. Foreman says he can beckon them easily enough with added advantage of a sense of oneness promoted by the nominal uniformity, but he has a problem when each sibling blames the broken furniture on George.

Upon referring to the voluminous Oxford English Dictionary (OED), it is seen that definition of ‘name’ spans five pages of small print beginning with, “1. The particular combination of sounds employed as the individual designation of a single person, animal, place or thing….” What follows is a rambling of several other definitions that reads like compilation of rules for the game of cricket. The etymological reasons for it are interesting enough to lead the reader to colourful history of the language. The word ‘name’ has been used by Anglicans over the ages to mean different things, often as a noun, but sometimes as a verb, adverb or adjective, as illustrated in the following uses of the word: “Your name is music to my ears / If I had a dollar to my name, I could make a name for myself / We name Henry as chairman of the committee / Maria would name her price; namely everything he owned / The mentalist could not name the composition in the maestro’s mind / In the name of the most benevolent and merciful, take one of my belongings / The name of the article was ‘Named Actor Seeks Anonymity’/ Geetha was able to name the state capitals, but not the animals in the zoo”.

The ‘name’, obviously, is a word that carries a wealth of meanings and linkages stretching almost endlessly. As a noun, its meaning is so broad that other words and phrases have been coined over the years to tote some of the baggage. A representative sample of synonyms for the word ‘name’ consists of surname, namesake, cognomen, anthroponym, autonym, nomen, pseudonym, patronym, matronym, moniker, appellation, epithet, sobriquet, agnomen, hypocorism, nom de plume, nom de guerre, alias, anonym, demonym, acronym, brand, signature, toponym, genus, icon, badge, symbol, label, title, classification, designation, rubric, denomination, type, specie, entity, and so on and on. Linguists themselves cannot agree on what a name is. Some argue that the meaning of a name is simply the real-world object to which it refers, while others attempt to show the linguistic meaning of names. Some say names are disguised descriptions of things, while others think they have no function in language except as pointers to objects. Some say that names have no meaning at all and still others maintain that the relation between a name and its bearer is outside the study of language.

The philosophical wrangling over the word has gone on since Socrates and continued by such notables as William James, John Stuart Mills and Bertrand Russell and more recently David Chalmers. Around the world in many languages, in academic fields of study like semiotics, linguistics, semantics, pragmatics, and onomastics, scholars have taken the investigation farther beyond familiar territories. As one navigates around the various theories of names, one visualizes a greased pig that seems always to slip away whenever one thinks it is in the grasp. Nonetheless, we still think we know what a name is, that at the center of all confusion and ambiguity, the word ‘name’ still has a meaning we can understand and identify with, even though, the word, in its enormous fluidity, is like a greased pig. Like all human ideas used to weave the fabric that clothes the gamut of expressions in a language, the ‘name’ continues to be an evasive word constituted by sounds and symbols forming brocades in the overall linguistic apparel, as one of distinction and discrimination that is chosen, conferred and announced. It always belongs somewhere to something, it can travel the world and be understood like Ford, Toyota or Airbus. It ignores the rules of grammar to become a Bronte adjective, or it can Houdini itself to be a verb. Names have meanings instead of definitions. Proclaiming themselves on badges and emblems, names promote themselves on banners and signs, belonging also to birth and breed, title and tradition.

All other symbols, signs and sounds in a language are just common words, often chained together to serve sentences. They are slaves to grammar and syntax, clothed by connotation and context, artless when alone, dispensable when not. Whereas common words are only threads woven together in patterns and pieces, the names are brocades adorning the linguistic apparel.

When reams of data become imperative in the matter of elucidation of multifarious shades of meaning of an apparently simple word as ‘name’, one can well envisage the enormity in the formidable task of compiling the dictionary of a language in its entirety. The herculean task begins with reading vast amounts of literature of the period or the targeted subject. As the editors read, they copy on cards every interesting or rare word, every unusual or peculiar occurrence of a common word, a large number of common words in their everyday usages, and also the sentences in which these usages appear. In short, the context of each word is collected together with the word itself. In a mega venture such as the multi-volume OED, millions of such cards are collected, and the task of editing goes on for decades, in the case of OED as much as seven decades. As the cards are collected, alphabetized and sorted, there may be several hundred quotations for each of the words on the cards. The editor reviews the cards closely, discards many to trim it to what appears to be the several senses and shades of meaning of a given word. The writing of a dictionary, therefore, constitutes a meticulous recording of the meanings of various words as it meant to authors at different times in the past. The lexicographer thus is more of a historian than an authority on words. The authority, if at all, has its basis in and derived from the numerous ways and contexts in which words appeared in the past and maintaining its currency or datedness in the present.

Given the humongous scale and complexity of endeavour even for native speakers of the language, one can very well visualize the epic dimensions of lexicography for a German missionary and linguist visiting India of the 19th c, to learn a few Indian languages, acquire adequate mastery in one of them and proceed to write the first dictionary in the south Indian language of Malayalam, followed by as many as thirteen books in the same language, which is my native tongue as well. The mastermind here is none other than Rev Dr. Hermann Gundert, who arrived India in the first half of 19th c. He settled down in Thalassery on the Malabar coast, a town located about 154 miles north of my home city of Cochin in the present day state of Kerala (see header pics of Hermann Gundert and his statue installed at the stadium in Thalassery, pics courtesy Google). The grandfather of renowned novelist and Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse, the exceptional achievements of Hermann Gundert may probably be unique in the annals of world literature.

If there is one book I have grown up with, it is the Oxford Dictionary, starting from its abridged edition in my secondary school to the advanced learner’s format and subsequently to the voluminous compilations of OED and Webster in my graduate and post-graduate years. It is a matter of pride to look back appraisingly at my learning progression in the English language, which is not my mother-tongue, right from alphabetical stage to a modest level of proficiency across a timescale of fifteen years. The same interest prompts a peek at the fascinating story behind making of the OED. In 1998, the British journalist and writer Simon Winchester published a book called ‘The Surgeon of Crowthorne’, a book about the life and works of Dr William Chester Minor, a former American army surgeon who became one of the most prolific contributors to the OED in the 19th c, while still locked up in a lunatic asylum for murder. The publishers emblazoned the words “A tale of murder, madness and the Oxford English Dictionary” on the cover of UK edition, while the US edition was named “The Professor and the Madman”, the title of professor referring to Sir James Murray, the chief editor of OED from 1879-1915.

It is interesting to follow the cue of madness and its relation to such a highly erudite endeavour as compilation of the dictionary of a language certainly is. Even as scholarship is an acknowledged criterion to plumb the depths and explore frontiers of a language, it would appear that a lunatic streak combined with a felicity for expressions enables the capture of its nuances and elementals. The degree of automatism that comes with lunacy is a perfect conduit for the linguistic savant. The lunatic, uninhibited by conservative norms and cautious self-interest that capitalism hardwires into society, transgresses boundaries, the first being the limits of civility. Though there were several compilations of dictionaries in the English Language, starting from the 16th c, these were mostly amateurish, lacking in breadth and depth of scholarship. The credit for bringing out the first comprehensive dictionary in the language goes to Dr Samuel Johnson. The masterly compilation, published in the 18th c,  represents a monumental feat in the English language, it being the output of nine years of industrious effort, executed single-handedly, with negligible clerical assistance, by Johnson, whose genius was coloured by his prejudices and eccentricities, which manifested in many of the entries in the dictionary. For example, the word ‘Oats’ is explained, rather impudently, as “A kind of food grain that horses eat. But in Scotland, it is used to feed people”. Rather amusingly, the elephant is described thus: “The largest of all quadrupeds, of whose sagacity, faithfulness, prudence and even understanding, many surprising relations are given. This animal is not carnivorous, but feeds on hay, herbs and all sorts of pulse; and it is said to be extremely long-lifed. It is naturally very gentle; but when enraged, no creature is more terrible. He is supplied with a trunk, or long hollow cartilage, like a trumpet, which hangs between his teeth, and serves him for hands: by one blow with his trunk he will kill a camel or a horse, and will raise of prodigious weight with it. His teeth are the ivory so well known in Europe, some of which have been seen as large as a man’s thigh, and a fathom in length. Wild elephants are taken with the help of a female ready for the male: she is confined to a narrow place, round which pits are dug: and these being covered with a little earth scattered over hurdles, the male elephant easily falls into the snare. In copulation the female receives the male lying upon her back; and such is his pudicity, that he never covers the female so long as anyone appears in sight”. Johnson’s detractors cite the entry as an example to berate the usage of an uncommon word like ‘pudicity’(meaning behavior that shows a sense of shame) to describe an elephant as also the sexual hint in the narrative, probably applied deftly with a commercial motive centuries before such a gimmick became cool.

The immensity of Johnson’s singular contribution as a lexicographer can be inferred from the fact that none thereafter, with the sole exception of Hermann Gundert as mentioned earlier, even attempted anything like a dictionary as a single-handed task; it was always planned as a group effort spread over long time spans. The same is the case with the OED which followed well over 170 years later. Ironically, it was James Murray, one of Johnson’s reviled Scotsmen, who helmed the OED project. In an endeavour that in current times will be described as crowdsourcing, Murray enlisted the help of thousands of far-flung volunteers, among them amateur philologists, to track the correct meaning and usage of English phrases past and present. Due to the hybrid or mongrel nature of the language, unlike Italian, French or German, English virtually received words and expressions from France, Germany, Greece, the Celts, in addition to other regions and languages around the world. It is, therefore, not pure, but defiled; yet robust as a fugitive language that initially benefitted from the Empire’s reach to partially embrace the world’s linguistic diversity and enrich itself in an eclectic process continuing into the present.

The eclecticism of the OED team is particularly evident in the manner in which the extensive scholarship of Dr William Chester Minor was gainfully accepted in the compilation of the dictionary. Regardless of his highly dissolute lifestyle punctuated by frequent bouts of delusions and paranoia, he became one of the project’s most effective volunteers, reading through his large personal library of antiquarian manuscripts to compile quotations illustrating the usage of particular words and phrases. Miller was even visited by the widow of the man he had murdered in a fit of schizophrenic fury; the merciful lady, sympathizing with his insanity, made further donations of books to his library. His invaluable contributions were duly acknowledged by James Murray stating, “We could easily illustrate the last four centuries from his quotations alone”.

While work on the OED progressed steadily, Miller’s condition deteriorated to the point of delusions of being abducted and sped away to places as far away as Istanbul and forced into paedophilia; in a fit of revulsion, he commits the gruesome act of cutting off his own genitals, an act that amounted to the doctor performing amputation of part of his own anatomy. The appalling event did not, however, die out before inspiring two elderly women lexicographers who were on a train journey from the Oxford station. The incident was narrated to them in all its grisly detail: the sharpening of the knife, tying of ligature, the gritted teeth, the fatal slice – as the narrator completed the story, the male folks in the railway coach crossed their legs reflexively. But not so the two old ladies who remained unperturbed and impassive. Perhaps the cerebral gears were shifting creatively in their minds. In the next moment, they yelled out almost in unison, ‘autopeotomy’, explaining ‘peotomy’ as amputation of the genitals and, by logical extension, the neologism ‘autopeotomy’ to refer to the same act carried out by a person on his own body. Simon Winchester narrates the incident in his book where the lady lexicographers were egging him on to frame sentences using the new word so that it gained enough currency for inclusion in the next edition of the OED.

The march of words is a continuing saga, sometimes hilarious and at other times in serious vein, more so in English and to a comparatively lesser degree in other languages worldwide. The language is no more a well of English undefiled, as purveyed by Chaucer, as it has since travelled vast geographical swathes, keeping up with extent of the empire and drawing from and contributing to myriads of cultures in colonial times, and stretching across liberal minded world of today. Like wandering minstrels of yore and itinerant travellers of this day and age, words bob and weave, accommodating diversities, growing by accretion and altering in meanings according to demands of custom and habit, transforming as the world changes. It abhors uniformity, embraces incongruity, causing language to become hollow if everything around is hollow. Neologisms arise out of incongruities, as new words create new realities.


56 thoughts on “What Is In a Word?

  1. I really enjoyed the wit and elegance of this piece, Raj, so must thank you for it. Johnson’s explanation of the peculiar eating practices seemingly (from his wording) forced upon the Scots was most amusing. Your writing is of an unusually high standard for the blogosphere; peerless in terms of grammatical correctness.

    • Thanks very much, Hariod. I am happy you are not a Scotsman so you could enjoy the gibe. In a way I share the Scottish characteristic since a cup of oats is part of my supper before retiring for the night….):)…):).

      • Me too Raj, every single evening, a small bowl of uncooked oatbran and cold milk — a daily dose of beta glucan. I’m a firm advocate of the Mornflake brand, the taste being consistently superior to others I’ve tried. 🙂

  2. What’s in a word? So much. When we first here a word, it often brings with it a certain character, maybe a certain charm or a certain strength. But depending on how the word is used and in what context and who said it, then it becomes something of its own, something that can even be owned by someone else.

    I smiled when you recalled your memories of the Oxford Dictionary. Growing up, I always has the Cambridge Dictionary by my side, lugging it to and fro English classes in Singapore and Malaysia. There was always a new English word to learn every day.

  3. Gosh Raj, you truly are a wordsmith! I really enjoyed this witty commentary.

    I have become more and more aware how all words have connotations to others that I cannot always be aware of. Regardless of context, I may use a word and the ‘other’ hears a wholly different sentence because of their attachments to said word. I often rely on physical cues in interactions with people to grasp their meaning with words, trying to feel the sentence/sentiment as a whole rather than pay particular attention to the words they use, knowing I have attachments to them they may not mean. Because of that knowledge, it can be challenging for me to express through written word things I am passionate about- knowing that the reader may hear my words in a different manner to how I intend to express, sometimes seemingly over-stating, sometimes under-stating what I actually intended by the time it has processed in their minds. It’s an interesting minefield- perhaps why I feel I best express myself through music!!

    Thanks for the engaging and amusing take on it all- I particularly enjoyed the George Foreman and two elderly women lexicographers stories! 🙂

    • Thanks Laura, so nice to see you here airing your views about words, and communication in general, which is one of interpretation at the receiving end that may or may not fully comprehend the intent of the communicator. After all, language is only a medium which, like all things in life, has a finite dimension to it. And that probably explains the raison d’ etre of art forms with their ability to communicate universally. Music is art at its most sublime, seeping into the core of audiences worldwide, whatever be its form and language. In fact language here is a dispensable element. As a practitioner of this art form you are truly blessed because music is divinity itself, believed to be one of the two breasts of Saraswathi, the goddess of arts and knowledge in the Vedic tradition.

    • Laura, I feel exactly the same way. One never knows what connotations another may experience when you use a particular word. An expression often used when conveying sympathy over the loss of a loved one is “Words are not enough …” It seems we recognise that in some cases, words are inadequate. I’ve often thought we each have our own inner language with which we speak to ourselves. In some ways, it’d be great to simply “tap into” another’s personal language; in another, however, I’m not sure I’d invite the intrusion of another into my own private world.

      • Lovely to ‘meet’ you Connie!

        Yes indeed, often ‘words are not enough’- and at times too much! I like how you put it- “we each have our own inner language”, so true. I would definitely choose learning through miscommunication over allowing others into my private world!

  4. Have heard a lot about Dr Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, though, I haven’t had an idea about the way it’s documented.The description of oats made me smile but, of course, there is a sense of derogation in it. “Pudicity” is also a new word for me!

    I think there’s many a thing in a word. And, that’s why it’s more powerful than the sword. Thanks for presenting such an enjoyable and enlightening read… 🙂

    • Thanks Mani. Your reference to the sword serves as a quick reminder of a prize winning entry in a capsule story contest recently conducted for school kids (capsule story has to be limited to 50 words). The entry that won the prize came from a fifth standard girl and it reads as foll:
      A soldier with a broken sword suddenly darts into a house looking for any replacement weapon for his protection. On not finding anything suitable, he turns away. While leaving, he spots a boy at his study. Seeing the broken sword, the boy says, “here keep this”, throwing his pen.

  5. Raj, another fascinating (and fun!) article. I’d read The Professor and the Madman some years ago when it was first published. It fascinated me. I enjoyed your speculation on the relationship between madness and erudition. (As a man of erudition, I wonder if you’re not speaking of your own experience! Lol.)
    Language may sometimes seem a crude form of communication, but it can be beautiful. I like to keep a journal of quotes of phrases I find particularly evocative or clever. Johnson’s definition of an elephant wouldn’t conjure up the appearance of one for me, but it includes particularities about this fascinating animal that captures it’s nature. And the differences in the reactions of the men compared to the two female lexicographers regarding Miller’s self-mutilation is one I noted when television new broadcasters related the incident in which Lorena Bobbitt performed a “peotomy” on her husband John Wayne Bobbit. To me, it indicates the difficulty of understanding between two groups of people with entirely different connotations and experiences of a word.
    Thank you once again for posting a wonderfully thought-provoking article. My I share it one my website? (I would just share the first bit of the article and then have a link to the original on this site.)

    • Ha haa… so you are calling me a madman. Just do not be in any blissful notion of the long distance between our stations acting as a buffer, as I can be in Canada when you least expect to launch an effective counter attack…):). Jokes apart, Connie, you are free to do whatever you want with my article.

      • Thank you, Raj. Many websites have “share” buttons, but as yours does not, I would just write a few words about the article, supply the beginning of it, and add a link to your site to “Read more”. As for your mental status, you would be in good company were you to come to Canada. I suspect most of us are a bit … um … unusual. The way I like to describe Canadians comes from a novel by Douglas Adams: Mostly Harmless.

  6. I am intrigued by language, since I’m such a visual person, I perceive each form and sound as manifestations of life. However, I’ve read visual language is the quickest of all, since light travels quicker than sound waves, but words are lexicons which must be deciphered either by reading or listening to find out their meaning. The visual arts seem to immediately seek quick attention, unlike words or songs.

    • Right you are, Maria. A visual can not only communicate faster than words but can also often tell a story of several hundred words. However it may be noted that it is only often, not always, as there are any number of examples of a few hundred words of masterminds opening up several worlds of meanings that cannot be adequately conveyed even by a million visuals.

  7. Its taken me a while to arrive her Raj.. And you can never be accused of being someone with only a few words to say 🙂 loved your posting.. And the way in which you weaved your own humour into it..
    Words have often fascinated me in that so many times we see a use of a word that has it’s origins in another. When I visited Scotland last year I went to a history museum Inveraray Jail,.. The term ‘Screws’ had long been a term I had know prisoners had called their jailers yet I had not known why.. Until I came across this device.. Which was a huge weighted wheel in which prisoners were punished to turn many times aday..
    The wheel was a pointless exercise designed to make prisoners use lots of energy so that they would be calmer and less inclined to make trouble. It was a useless exercise, and the prison guards would make it harder by turning a screw – hence the term now used for guards. ‘Screws ‘

    And that was perhaps another bit of useless information.. lol.. But the use of words make me think of it.. 🙂

    Wishing you and your family well Raj..

    Blessings Sue 🙂

  8. Whether early or late, what matters is your presence here, Sue, adding to the discussion. The concept of state as a social unit expedited the evolution of written language and with it the regulatory framework covering code of laws, and penitentiaries where criminals can be incarcerated for long periods with punitive and reformative intent. What began with sounds articulating into the word, swelled in numbers to encompass multiplicity of meanings and associations, not only through variety of words but also through individual words carrying variety of meanings, as exemplified by your reference to Inveraray Prison. While on the subject of prisons, it is interesting to note that Netherlands is reporting a drastic reduction in crime rates resulting in too many vacant prisons, a case of too many prisons chasing too few prisoners. The Dutch are presently selling their well-maintained jails to incarcerate convicts sent by Belgium and Norway. Many of the well-heeled convicts in the inferior jails of Asian countries may, if permitted, opt to migrate to the qualitatively better detention centres in Netherlands to serve out their prison terms in cool comfort….😋

    • This is very interesting Raj about the reduction of crime in the Netherlands.. And I smiled at your last sentence too. Apologies only just getting back to answer.. it appears WordPress is not delivering all of responses to my comments around WP, I find I have to back track many times and see comments that have failed to be forwarded to my notification box..
      Wishing you a pleasant Weekend my friend.. And thank you for that indepth response..
      Blessing Sue 🙂

  9. Raj reading your brilliant writings makes me realize how much I have missed in not having studied English literature in my college. And I second Hariod’s words “Your writing is of an unusually high standard for the blogosphere; peerless in terms of grammatical correctness”.

    In a different take I cannot resist adding one of my favorite quotes: “Words are free its how you use them that may cost you”!


    • Thanks Dilip. May I also add to your observation by recalling the statement of a well-known poet of one of the Indian languages; he said, “words are like Kamadhenu, the mythological cow of prosperity. If milked appropriately, words yield abundantly in terms of meaning; if handled ineptly, the user will be at the receiving end of an awkward kick, similar to hindleg kick of the bovine”.

  10. Pingback: Read and Learn – शब्द लहर

  11. A very intriguing discussion, Raj. I plan to come back and re-read it, given my love of words. When I took a Linguistics course, I learned that for some linguists a name is nothing more than a way to distinguish something from something else (such as a “table” from a “chair”). As you explain in your well-written post, there is more to it. “What’s in a name?” as Shakespeare said, and the sweet he spoke of is the dialogue that comes from fascinating writes!

  12. Enjoyable post–I have always loved and appreciated dictionaries. Sometimes (probably not often enough), I just read them. I always learn something.

    Names are fascinating, clothing our thoughts so we can share them. Always an interesting topic of discussion. 🙂

  13. interestingly, NOMINAL stands for both ‘a specific derivative of a name’ as well as a nonspecific entity (as in nominal fee).
    So many words are lost in translation. I still haven’t found a worthy English alternative to words like vatsalya (maternal love seems so bland and commonplace).
    Your posts are rare, in that they demand a read and re-read to extract their full value. Do you write at a stretch or do you plan your post meticulously?

    • Thanks Sweety, for your take on words. You have a point about the challenging task of translation as every language is a cultural blossom with its own colourful petals of native idioms and phrases that defy replication. The word Dharma is an example, as there is no single word translation for it in English or other languages. So the word has been reproduced as it is in English, which is one of the beauties of the language, namely, its readiness to draw from other languages and cultures worldwide, in turn making it the fastest growing language. An illustrative example is the word ‘juggernaut’ , which is a cultural import into English from, where else, India; its etymology is traced to Jaganath’s chariot in Puri temple, which is unstoppable once it starts rolling; and so juggernaut, meaning a gigantic object or force that is overwhelming and unstoppable. At the fast pace at which it is continually growing and enriching itself, English may well be among the very few languages capable of surviving into the millennia ahead.
      As regards my writing, I sit down to write at the stage of feeling mentally full so that the subject flows out through me at a stretch, which may be many hours. For larger forms of writing such as a novel, the above process may replicate multiple times over several weeks, though I am yet to try my hand at writing a novel. Preparation, if required in certain areas, is one of the contributors to the feeling of mental fullness.

      • I sure would love to read a novel you pen! Do think seriously about it.
        Yes, Dharma is sadly misinterpreted & misused loosely as religion. Any sundry person practising rituals, wearing saffron, mumbling chants thinks of themselves as dharmic.
        Juggernaut is quite a surprise!

    • Thanks very much Sue for your great sense of timing. Countries in Asia are ushering in the spring and with it the new year packaged in a variety of festivals like Holi, Baisakhi and Vishu reflecting the green fields, happily blooming trees and bright sunshine at this time. A special feature of this year is that Vishu and good Friday fall on the same day, 14th April, closely followed by Easter. On the whole, the months of March and April are joyous months providing a resplendent beginning to the year. My warm thoughts and wishes to you and family too on this occasion….😋

      • Thank you for those warm thoughts Raj, and know many festivals are so colourful and meaningful.. A time to celebrate indeed.. Many thanks my friend for your lovely prompt reply.. 🙂

  14. We need to choose our words carefully, also our tone…I think it is always important to discuss vital issues face to face as expression, body language , etc all have an impact on how or words are perceived. Wonderful text Raj.

  15. It is said that behind every English word and phrase there is a story and goes backs to thousands of years and to stitch together the time zones to reach to the origin of the word is such an amusing exercise. Kudos to historians and the lexicographer. No other language is as rich and vibrant as English. There will be a contest to my statement. But it has evolved and it has that inherent glue factor that has managed to hold on so many old and new facets that has come its way and stew of influences it has faced over a long period of time. The language of English is time tested and tested across multiple geographical dispositions. So what is there in a word? You have presented a whole world of word around us. Not to speak of the word “name” which has so many fascinating brothers and sisters, it is wonderful to have a dialogue and discussion and keep having it. After all the essence of life is in the beautiful communication and the language that facilitates that connection, and many times it becomes the connection of soul going beyond the meeting of minds. Yes we have all group with the Oxford English Dictionary and then it was the Google for us and it was very much beside us and we used to get so excited when we connect with the meaning. English is such beautiful language and every word evokes an emotion though there is a definitive meaning it, the compilation of dictionary is such a herculean task and it is only those who are into it can express the engagement and research that goes behind.

    Quite interesting to know about George Foreman, naming all his five siblings as George, and what is more intriguing is how can somebody think such radically to an extent that instantly it defy’s the convention and it is in fact gravity defying actions. Question the very fundamental of why we name a person, to give an identify and we all aspire to give our siblings the most unique name, a name that is rare and a name that connotes success and power. The description of elephant appears voluminous, perhaps it was meant to depict the size of the animal and for the reader to conjure up the image while reading the meaning in the dictionary…” trunk, or long hollow cartilage, like a trumpet, which hangs between his teeth, and serves him for hands: by one blow with his trunk he will kill a camel or a horse, and will raise of prodigious weight with it”…and Oats, a kind of food that horse eats, sometime we get reminded of Amitabh Bachchan’s dialogue English is such a funny language…very much within the element of fun lies the serious stuff that English language brings to the world of communication and how it has managed to break the barriers of continents and countries and have become the most unified bridging factor between communities around the world.

    I like this formation “All other symbols, signs and sounds in a language are just common words, often chained together to serve sentences.”…I always wonder how they have chosen the symbols of alphabets to creation of words and then the sentences to represent our thoughts and also convey our emotions and feelings, after all language are vehicle of bonding…the job of a lexicographic is wonderful mix of paradox, the exploration to whole new world while searching the history behind the word and level of engagement needed to meet up those heightened engagement.

    The write up of yours is a delightful juxtaposition of historical depth and the sheer quirkiness of how you have handled the subject with such deft. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

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