Saturday 2 June 2018

It pays to increase your word-power

After Metanoia, more obscure words. There used to be a column in Reader's Digest called It pays to increase your word-power. Maybe there still is, but it's 40+ years since I was desperate enough to open a Reader's Digest. A few days ago I was desperate enough to open my copy of Dictionary of Foreign Terms by Mario Pei and Salvatore Ramondino . . . delicately because it was published in the USA on acid-rich paper so the pages are yellowed and brittle. They were yellowed and brittle when I bought it for 25c in a yardsale in suburban Boston in the early 1980s.
Mario Pei (1901-1978) emigrated from his native Italy to the USA aged 8 and developed into a remarkable polyglot; fluent in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian with functionality in 30 other tongues. He was positive about Esperanto [which prev]. If you see one of his many his books going cheap, pick it up: they are readable and accessible. If you see one going cheep-cheep ignore it: it's for the birds.

Because I can be a bit OCD, I'll give you a taster: first word on  every 10th page between 28 and 358:
aire libre [Sp] open air
Arbeiter [Ger] worker, workers
baklava [Turk] a rich many layered pastry made with butter, nuts and honey
blad [Swed, Norw, Dan, Du] leaf, sheet, folio, newspaper
cabaletta [It] a catchy refrain at the end of an aria or duet
catalogue raisonné [Fr] annotated catalogue footnoting and explaining works of art
chukker [Anglo-Ind from Hindi chakkar, wheel] a track for exercising horses; a time period in polo game
cornu copiae [Lat] horn of plenty
Dasein [Ger] existence, presence
Dolce [It] sweet, sweetly  - far niente sweet idleness, it's nice to do nothing - stil nuovo Italian literary14th Century style based on courtly love. - vita the sweet life, the beautiful life, hedonistic style of living
en gros [Fr] in all, in total, wholesale
fabada [Sp] bean stew - asturiana ; in the Asturian style with bacon, ham and/or sausage added
fluvius [Lat] river, flood; of or pertaining to a river
get [Yid from Aramaic] divorce
Hadji [Ar] a muslim who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca; a mark of respect
Ich [Ger] I
ita est [Lat] it is so [i.e.]
katharsis [Gk] purging, purification esp. of the emotions or conscience
landzman [Yid] a countryman, compatriot
lo dicho [Sp] what is said
maraca [Port from Tupi] a gourd loosely filled with seeds, used as a musical instrument
ming [Chin] type of art done during the Ming dynasty in China (1369-1644), esp. in porcelain and painting
Nazi [Ger abbr Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei] a member of the National Socialist Workers' Party; the Nazi party
omnium gatherum [pseudo-Latin from omnium of all + Eng gather+um Lat suffix] miscellaneous collection, hodgepodge.
passe-partout [Fr] (lit. pass everywhere) master key; pass key; ornamental mat for a picture
Pochismo [MexSp from pocho discoloured] name of a Spanish-English pidgin along the Mexican-US border
quand même [Fr] nevertheless; just the same; all the same
rez-de-chaussée [Fr] ground floor
sbirro [It var. of birro from LL birrus red (from the colour of some uniforms)] policeman; cop
si [Fr. from Lat sic thus, so] if, whether, so, so much, yes (in answering a negative question); [Sp] if whether.
sucrier [Fr] sugar-bowl
toile [Fr, linen, canvas from Lat tela web] sailcloth, canvas, backing material
Ursprung [Ger] source; origin
vouloir, c'est pouvoir [Fr] where there's a will, there's a way
I'll be using some of these this Summer: "Oh, I say Pat, pass the sucrier, old chap"

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