10 Great Words about Words

The best words to describe language-related experiences, reading, and other related phenomena

Logos is the very first word of the Gospel of St John: ‘In the beginning was the Word’. (Logos means ‘word’.) And ‘logos’, it turns out, has given us a raft of great wordy words – word-related terms which describe our infatuation, and frustration, with language. Nomen, the Latin for ‘name’, has also given us some great terms, so we’ve included one of those here as well, in this post outlining the best words about language or related phenomena: reading, names, and the like. We hope you enjoy them.

Alogotransiphobia denotes the fear of being caught on public transport with nothing to read. The word hasn’t found its way into dictionaries yet. It was coined by a novelist in 1992, according to Paul Dickson in his informative book of word-trivia, Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers.

A logodaedalus is someone who is cunning with words; it was first used by poet and playwright Ben Jonson in 1611.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Thomas Chatterton

The life and work of the poet Thomas Chatterton, told through five bits of trivia

1. Chatterton was, in effect, the first English Romantic poet. Before William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Thomas Chatterton (1752-177o) was laying the groundwork for a revolution in English verse. Chatterton was perhaps the most precocious English poet who has ever lived. In his early teens, he fell in love with all things medieval, and invented the figure of the fifteenth-century monk Thomas Rowley, who would become the teenage boy’s alter ego. Thereafter, Chatterton would write the majority of his poems as Rowley, and even succeeded in passing them off as genuine medieval poems … for a while, at least.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Sir Philip Sidney

Facts about the life of Elizabethan poet and courtier Sir Philip Sidney

1. Philip Sidney invented the name Pamela. Sidney (1554-1586) was a true ‘Renaissance man’: soldier, statesman, poet, diplomat, and – it would appear – coiner of popular girls’ names. Or at least this one name. Pamela appears in Sidney’s long prose work Arcadia (of which more below). The name means ‘all sweetness’ (from pan meaning all, and mela from the Latin for ‘sweet’ or ‘honey’, whence ‘mellifluous’).

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Five Fascinating Facts about Herbert Spencer

The life and work of philosopher and writer Herbert Spencer, in five pieces of trivia

1. He had a bit of a fling with novelist George Eliot. The friendship of Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) and Mary Ann Evans (or George Eliot) represents a true meeting of minds: Eliot was a multi-talented writer, translator, and thinker who incorporated many contemporary scientific and philosophical ideas into her fiction, and Spencer was a key proponent of evolutionary biology. At one point it looked as though romance might be in the air, but Spencer was put off by Eliot’s unconventional looks. Eliot later met and hooked up with George Henry Lewes, becoming his common-law wife. Spencer was a man of intense moods, and owned an ‘angry suit’ which he would don whenever he was feeling especially peevish.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Edmund Burke

The life and work of Edmund Burke, told through five great pieces of trivia

1. Burke anticipated the Romantic movement. In his A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), Burke introduced the concept of the Sublime, which he defined in opposition to the Beautiful. Whereas the Beautiful is harmonious and aesthetically pleasing, there is something unsettling and dangerous about the Sublime – something potentially destructive. The Sublime, in other words, is both awesome and awful – both terrific and terrifying/terrible. This idea would influence the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) but also the Romantic poets: Percy Shelley’s poem about Mont Blanc is often cited as a great example of the Sublime in Romantic poetry. Because the Sublime was wilder and potentially more dangerous, whereas the Beautiful was ordered and controlled, the two terms are said to mark the divide between the Neoclassical poetry of writers such as Alexander Pope (whose verse reflects order and control) and the Romantic era, where poets became more interested in the wild power of nature and man’s relationship with it.

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