This is a blog about language and literature. I’ve always been fascinated by words, by how words form sentences, and how sentences form poems and stories. The technical term for this fascination is philology—the love of language. Friedrich Nietzsche defined philology as the art of reading slowly—that’s where I got the title for this blog. In the section titled What is Philology? I discuss what I take to be the four major components of philology: historical linguistics, the editing of texts, the interpretation of language in context, and the interpretation of literature with special attention to language. I’m interested in all of these, and I will post blogs on all of them, but my own work lies primarily in the third and fourth areas.
I created this site as an invitation for anyone who has a passion for literature—readers and writers of all sorts. I would like to think of this blog as one part of a conversation among people who share an interest in the way language works and the way it turns into art. Please feel free to enter the conversation by dropping me a note with your reactions to my posts or with your own thoughts. I welcome your comments and suggestions.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Karen L. Hogan, who did all the hard work of designing and mounting this blog. Without her help it wouldn’t have happened.
My Most Recent Blog Posts
This week I happened to reread Malcolm Lowrey’s Under the Volcano, which I last read probably forty years ago or more. It’s not one of my favourite books, but many people like it a lot, and I’m not writing this blog to give my opinions. Whether I like it or not, I grant that it’s … Continue reading Plangent, Ostiole, and Winze
Etymological Entertainments #3 Today I want to talk a little more about phonotactics, that is, the rules of sound combination in various languages. In an earlier post (“Etymological Entertainments #2”) I noted that when we say the English word “pterodactyl” we don’t pronounce the initial “p”—we say “teradactyl”. The initial cluster “pt” is not allowed … Continue reading Pneumonia, Amnesia, and Knee
Some years back, when my mother was still alive, I called her one day to find out how she was doing. “I’m a little tired today,” she said, “because I didn’t get much sleep last night.” What kept you up? I asked. “Well,” she answered, “you know I always read a little bit before I … Continue reading Lost in a Book
By the end of this post I want to get to the word helicopter, but first I will consider a different group of words: telephone, telegraph, telegram, telescope, and so on. These are all compound words, and it’s easy to see the parts of the compounds: the first part is tele and the second part is, respectively, phone, graph, gram, and scope. … Continue reading Etymological Entertainments #2
Etymology, the history of words, is entertaining and informative. It’s entertaining to find out that the word idiosyncrasy is formed from three Greek roots: idio– (personal, private, one’s own), syn (together), and krasis (a mixture, a blend)—so an idiosyncrasy is the personal things you have mixed together. The word idiot comes from the Greek idiôtês, a private person, a person who keeps to himself, a … Continue reading Etymological Entertainments #1
In my previous post on meaning I talked about the meaning of the dative of interest and the meaning of what I called parenthetical “well”. In this post I will talk about he meaning of one of the rhetorical figures—tricolon, which is made of three items in more or less parallel structure. Abraham Lincoln used … Continue reading Language and Meaning #2