Erik (eriktrips) wrote,

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i have a new dictionary. it is the american heritage dictionary of the english language third edition and it is just like my housemate's dictionary which has been very handy for looking up words but i thought i should get my own. so i sent off to powells for a used copy and got this one which is in really good shape for an old used dictionary and was cheap for a big heavy dictionary.

now i can look up words in the privacy of my own room. there are two kinds of words that give me problems when i read them. the one kind is that group of words that you have read over and over again and maybe even used before and think you know the definitions but then you see one used in a context that demonstrates some meaning that seems rather oblique to what you thought the word meant so you have to look it up.

one such word is pernicious. i thought it meant something like insidious but as it turns out it really doesn't. i mean they both mean destructive or evil in a way but something pernicious is not necessarily subtle as something insidious is.

i didn't know this before this morning.

the other type of word i have problems with are those that translate foreign words as though they are cognates but you look at it and you know you have never seen an english word that looks like that and this happens most often with french translations i think because just about any french -ment word or -tion word can be simply transcribed as is and made into an english word. but much of the time the english word is far more obscure than the french word and sometimes i really wish those who translate french texts would feel more compelled to use germanic root words as they are more familiar.

i can't think of an example of this kind of word off the top of my head but i have encountered several of them in the levinas i am reading but obviously they are soon forgotten after being looked up.

why of course was i thinking about pernicious and insidious this morning even after coffee when i should have been thinking words like luminous and florescent? what is the matter with me?

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