Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wordplay Wednesday™ July 8, 2015 – CARK: Worry not

Worry not lexicographers … it’s all in how you say it!

Do you wonder why certain words lose popular favor and fall into the “Archaic” category?

Language is mutable and transient by decades, fads, cultures, and eras. Sigh. Nothing ever stays the same. So, what’s changed in your vocabulary?

You're not thinking fourth dimensionally!

Is today’s language making you long for a back to the future trip? There’s a word for that …

Ah, don’t CARK your pretty little head about it … yep, this week’s word is rarely used. Even dear ol’ Webster calls it archaic.

CARK (kärk) – (archaic; vt., vi.) to worry or be worried; n. distress; anxiety. [Worry not!]

Why do archaic words continue to hang out in current dictionaries, taking up space? Good question – Mr. Webster, are you reading this?

For obvious reasons, Noah Webster is one of my heroes. Not only was he the epitome of lexicographers, but he was considered a fringe Founding Father of the United States. (Appropriate for one of this month’s Wordplay Wednesday entries, right?)

A teacher following the American Revolution, Webster abhorred how outdated the school system had become. Children still read primers from England, with books’ text “… often pledging their allegiance to King George. Webster believed that Americans should learn from American books, so in 1783, he wrote his own textbook: A Grammatical Institute of the English Language.Do you know it by its nickname? ...

By 1829 the title had changed a few times, settling down to The Elementary Spelling Book. But for many, it was simply known as the “Blue-Backed Speller.”

We owe much of our current language to the polish and exacting prose of this man, whose 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language was largely based on Christian words and “… contained the greatest number of Biblical definitions given in any reference volume.”

Oh, and if you ever think the dictionaries are stupid and you are better suited to write one … it’s reported that Webster learned twenty-eight languages in order to maintain accuracy in the etymology of words. Go for it!

Thank you, Mr. Webster – we owe a great deal to you – please don’t flip over in your grave, seeing how we’ve nearly destroyed your life’s work … maybe someday we’ll go back to basics and stop using verbs as nouns and vice versa.

But don’t guilt us into it.

Cark not … just doesn’t have the same ring as worry not.

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