A new word is a solution to a problem. It answers a need – intellectual, experiential. Often the need is obvious, but sometimes it is unseen or barely felt, and then it is only in finding something to plug the gap that we actually realize the gap was there in the first place. We all know the experience of coming up against a new word. I could have written ‘seeing’ or ‘hearing’, but the preposition against has its place here: when we encounter a word we have not seen before, the experience is a collision. What dit you think the first time you chanced upon chutzpah, which is of Yiddish origin, or aficionado, which is from Spanish and originally denoted a devotee of bull-fighting? A likely reaction is bewilderment: what is this word? A second reaction is to ask what its existence tells us. A third is to start using it.

Henry Hitchings, The secret life of words. How English became English, pag. 6.

Postato da: IM


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