Lost for Words: Love

Now, normally, I’m the unsentimental variety who doesn’t do anything for the fast-approaching “holiday” that is St. Valentine’s feast-day. I don’t think a smidgeon of romance on one day because the commercially-minded tell us to is worth forgetting about it the rest of the year.

However, with all that in mind, while I was meandering through the OED, I  happened across the verb ‘to love’, and thence to the noun.

I once had a discussion with a more linguistically minded friend, and we came to the conclusion that the verb ‘to love’ should, grammatically speaking, be: First Person Plural Present Tense and a couple of other things I can’t now remember, and I can’t find the scrap of paper I wrote it down on. I forget how verbs are analysed grammatically. That was never my forte.

What I like about the word ‘love’ is that it has cognates in most Indo-European languages. The same base in languages from the Germanic to Latin to Sanskrit, with (almost) the same meaning in each – of feeling affection or being pleasing or being agreeable.

The Sanskrit root lubh- apparently originally meant something along the lines of ‘to be confused’. Which, to be fair, probably isn’t too far wrong, given all the songs and whatnot about love being confusing, and fools in love and so on. Sanskrit later gave it the meaning everyone else had, of feeling desire or affection. I think it should have stuck to its guns one the whole confused thing, although it did chuck greed into the later definition. Which, I suppose, is fitting for the modern Valentine’s Day, at least as far as the retailers go…



Lost for Words: Fire-Flaught

The internet is a many-coloured thing, with lots of wonderful resources. Is there anything more useful than knowledge at one’s fingertips?

I like knowing things. Nothing specific, just things. Lots of things. Random things. Obscure things. Details.

But of all the resources the internet has to offer me, one of my very favourites is the OED Online. For those who don’t know the OED – basically, I like reading a dictionary. But not just any dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary.

The reason I like the OED so much is that it doesn’t just tell me what a word means. It tells me how the word joined the English language and how long ago. It tells me who has used the word, and when, and in what context. It tells me the history of the word, and its spelling variations.

And I am incredibly grateful that my (several) library cards grant me free access to this wonderful resource. Sadly, at about 26 volumes and around £1K, I cannot afford the space or money for the paper copy, much as I would love one. And yes, I collect library cards. One day I would like to have joined every public library service in the UK (a bit ambitious the way governments like to close them, but I can dream).

Anyway, the reason I mention all this is because I thought it would be fun to share words. I like words and languages (although I’m not generally very good at speaking them).

My chosen word today is the noun  Fire-Flaught, which is a flash of lightning in the Scottish/N. English dialect. Apparently it was used interchangeably with fire-slaught by some authors, which is the older of the two, but that is now rare (interestingly, though, the most recent citation the OED has of it is 1999, whereas fire-flaught was most recently used in 1996).

The origins of fire-flaught seem distinctly Germanic, with fire having many cognates in the dead languages of the Dutch and North German tribes, and flaught  probably having roots in the Old English and Norse words for ‘flaying’.

I quite like the image of a lightning bolt as flaying the earth with fire.

Which words do you like?