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A Short Analysis of Sylvia Plath’s ‘Words’

‘Words’ was one of the last poems Sylvia Plath wrote before her tragic suicide in February 1963. (Plath would kill herself on 11 February 1963, in a London apartment she had decided to rent because W. B. Yeats had once lived there; ‘Words’ was written on 1 February.) You can read Plath’s poem ‘Words’ here before proceeding to our analysis below.

As the poem’s title implies, ‘Words’ is a meditation on the very stuff of poetry, although it is neither wholly favourable nor wholly damning about the power of words. We begin, in summary, with a single word: ‘Axes’. Its plural picking up on the poem’s plural title, ‘Axes’ immediately invites us to draw a link between title and opening line: words are axes, in that they are cutting, powerful, but also potentially deadly. After one has struck the wood of the tree or log with an axe, the wood ‘rings’. Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Robert Burns’s ‘Auld Lang Syne’

‘Auld Lang Syne’ – which loosely translates into modern English as ‘old long since’ – is one of Robert Burns’s most famous poems, which is remarkable since Robert Burns almost certainly didn’t write it. What are the origins of this, one of the most famous songs in the world? In this post, we’re going in search of the meaning of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, as well as offering some words of analysis of its lyrics.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus. For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne. Read the rest of this entry

The Fascinating World of Authorisms: Words Created by Writers

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads Paul Dickson’s Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers

All words have to start somewhere, of course. But many of them are of anonymous authorship. The small amount of success I’ve had in getting the word ‘bibliosmia’ into general circulation has demonstrated that, even if a word has a clear origin and originator, this is soon of less consequence than the usefulness of the word itself. Yet some words do have clear origins and clear creators. Sometimes, a famous word was also coined by a famous person. And it’s of little surprise that writers have been especially proficient at coining new words.

Paul Dickson’s Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers, is the kind of book that was bound to get written eventually, and in a way it’s surprising that it took until 2014 for someone to do so. Dickson offers, if you like, a lexicon with a difference, running the whole gamut of author-coined words and phrases from ‘A man got to do what he got to do’ through to ‘zombification’. There’s also an epilogue and an appendix, which sees Dickson addressing the far-from-simple question of how many words and phrases Shakespeare, often considered the master neologist of the English language, actually coined. He gets the credit for a vast number, but Read the rest of this entry