Okay, so the title's awkward, but I really wanted a third sibilant. (A subsequent sibilant?)
Anyhow...yesterday we made it to the library. I always mean to make it there more often, but that hasn't happened in the last three years. (We haven't made it to the library more often than we make it to the library? Yes, I recognize the circular nonsense here.)
Oh, but as I looked for books, as my stack of take-homes grew, oh my heart...
I love our library. I love most libraries. I was verging on telling C, "That's it. I quit my job. I'm going to spend all of my time reading everything I want to read here."
Fortunately, I came to my senses, checked out my books, and have dutifully worked today (although I still have some hours to complete...just as soon as I finish clacking this out here).
I've just cracked this book, but I love it. In the first chapter, Shea discusses words language purists are quick to point out being used "incorrectly." He writes, "The nine words in this chapter are all examples of words that have not only become unmoored from some earlier meaning but have done so in a manner that has annoyed many people," and he goes on to talk about semantic drift.
He doesn't only talk about nine words, though, in this first chapter; he brings up other examples as further illustrations.
What made me stop by here, in the middle of the chapter, tucked into his discussion of "enervate" (which, until very recently I had to look up every time I came across it because if I had to guess, I'd guess it meant something along the lines of "suck the life out of"), is this:
Most dictionaries today tend to view their role as that of recorder of language, rather than watchdog. If enough people use a word in a certain fashion, whether rightly or wrongly, then lexicographers will dutifully note this usage. Cocoa is universally accepted in dictionaries as referring to a "powdered form of the ground cacao bean used to make chocolate," yet it is nothing more than a poor spelling of cacao that somewhere along the line managed to be misspelled by enough people to gain legitimacy.
And that is something I've long wondered about. So thank you, Ammon Shea.
Now back to my reading.