You can call us anything you like except late for dinner ...
We all know how marvellous words are, the bricks and mortar without
which books wouldn’t exist – but pause for a moment and think just how marvellous …
There is a word for absolutely everything – take aglets for example. An aglet is the little metal
bit – or more usually these days plastic bit – on the end of a lace. It stops
the lace end from fraying and makes it easier to poke it through eyelets or lugs.
Aglets have been around for ages, at least since Roman times, but it is only more
recently (around 1400) that they were given a name: derived from the French aguillette, a little needle. I have no
idea what they were called before that: ‘That fiddly little bit on the end of a
lace’ quite possibly – which given the increasing importance of laces in this
period as a way of stopping your clothes from falling off, makes inventing the
so-much easier and more precise word aglet a sensible as well as long overdue thing
And then there is the philtrum: that bit of your face just
below your nose and above your top lip. That one is of Greek origin, and came
into use I am informed, around 1600. Like aglets, it makes you wonder how on
earth folk coped before someone finally said ‘Let’s give it a name so we don’t
have to keep pointing at it or drawing diagrams’.
There are even words to describe non-existent things: slithy
toves and triffids to name just two – while the majority of word-originators
are anonymous, you will of course be familiar with the creators of these two, Lewis
Carroll and John Wyndham. I’m not normally a fan of the description ‘wordsmith’ which is so
often used in a pretentious fashion, but it does feel totally appropriate for all
those who forge new words.
And there are so many sublime words to rejoice in; currently
an estimated three quarters of a million in the English language from which to
cherry pick your favourites – and when you have finished savouring those, there
are around 7000 other languages worldwide to delight in!
"Help yourself to as much roast turkey as you want"
are definitely the best words, and should be used more often ...