Misdemeanors against Etymology: Misrepresenting Sanskrit’s Impact on English

There are many reasons to study Sanskrit. It’s a classical language with massive influence, and it’s vital to unlocking ancient religious, philosophical, literary, scientific, and historical texts from the Indian subcontinent and beyond. Long before such inquiries were undertaken in the Greco-Roman world, Sanskrit had been studied extensively to produce insight into the structure and… Continue reading Misdemeanors against Etymology: Misrepresenting Sanskrit’s Impact on English

Misdemeanors against Etymology: “May”

In a delightful article about a contemporary celebration in Greece, one can stumble upon a misdemeanor against etymology committed by Greek City Times, drawing likely from conventional wisdom: Maios (May) took its name from the Goddess Maja, whose name comes from the ancient word Maia, nurse and mother. This is false: the name of the month… Continue reading Misdemeanors against Etymology: “May”

Spelling Bee Champions and the Value of Classical Languages

Does spelling matter? The New York Times offered this question to young readers, having recently printed a piece defending President Trump’s loose approach to spelling. Other publications have not been so charitable or sympathetic. Several writers in the popular media have assured us that spelling matters outside of the classroom, while academics have found that one’s spelling ability does… Continue reading Spelling Bee Champions and the Value of Classical Languages

Visualizing the Impact of Latin on English

Philip Durkin, author of Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English, wrote an article for Slate a few years ago which is a wonderful resource for understanding the influence of Latin and other languages on English. The article is well-written, but the interactive element at the top is the true prize. In an earlier… Continue reading Visualizing the Impact of Latin on English

Misdemeanors against Etymology: “camel”

A few years ago, Miriam Vamosh posted a musing on a “Word of the Day” on Haaretz which, on a Politifact Truth-O-Meter scale, might not quite rank a full “true.” Ride it or read it, the Hebrew word for that long-necked, hump-backed desert animal shares a linguistic genealogy with the English name it eventually inspired.… Continue reading Misdemeanors against Etymology: “camel”