I recently found myself caught up in one of those excruciating ice-breaking exercises. “Reveal one surprising fact about yourself!” I’ve been here before – three times to be exact and, once again, I find myself reverting to the fact that I studied Latin for A Level. At least one person in the room raises an eyebrow in what certainly looks like a mild form of amazement but, on further reflection, perhaps this is not actually so surprising a fact for someone who has carved a career as a freelance writer.
I may no longer spend my days chanting Latin verbs, but I do spend hours and hours agonising over my choice of language. Day in day out, I deliberate over the merits of using this word or that one and, quite frankly, nothing gives me more pleasure. When entrenched in a piece of writing, I have words constantly flowing through my mind in the same way I imagine quavers, minims and crotchets spinning around a composer’s head.
A quiddling thermopot
In my job as a freelance feature writer, I have had the pleasure of interviewing so many interesting people including lexicographer, Susie Dent, known for being in charge of the Dictionary Corner on Channel 4’s Countdown. I am a huge fan of her Twitter feed where she reveals ancient words that have dropped out of everyday language. There’s ‘quiddling’ – 18th century speak for paying extra attention to trivial matters as a way of avoiding the important ones and ‘thermopot’ – one who downs a copious amount of hot drinks. I have to confess to being guilty of both of these actions today!
Words of the year
Susie Dent started her career at Oxford University Press working first on bi-lingual dictionaries and then English dictionaries. It’s always intriguing to hear what the different dictionaries have chosen as their ‘word of the year’. For 2021, Oxford Languages have gone for ‘vax’ while Cambridge Dictionary have plumped for ‘perseverance’, selected because it ‘captures the undaunted will of people across the world to never give up, despite the many challenges of the last twelve months.’ Never has a truer word been spoken!
Much as I love playing around with words, it would seem this pastime is no longer just the privilege of writers and lexicographers. Since Wordle became the latest craze, nearly three million people from all walks of life are choosing to take time out of their busy schedules to try to uncover the only five letter word that matters that day. But does my Latin grounding put me at an unfair advantage? As my mother and three teenage daughters beat me over and over again, clearly not! Odds on ‘outwordle’ being the frontrunner for 2022 word of the year?