17 October, 2007

Falling madly in love with a word

Is something I tend to do a lot. Right now, the word in question is "clever." Isn't it great? Say it a million times to yourself, turn it into a mantra or a chant. Liking it yet? Maybe you could try writing a paper on a certain Greek hero's cleverness.

Since I am so excessively fond of the word (cleverness, clever, cleverly, cleverosity - ok, that last one isn't a genuine word), I decided post its etymology. Just in case reading my random ravings about the word (cleverness, clever; I'm almost singing it now)haven't bored you enough, you can take a look at this. If you're rabidly interested in linguistics, however, I'm afraid that won't work, because it is a very interesting etymology.

Clever
c.1590, from E.Anglian dial. cliver "expert at seizing," probably from E.Fris. klufer or Norwegian dialectic klover "ready, skillful," perhaps infl. by O.E. clifer "claw, hand" (early usages seem to refer to dexterity); extension to intellect is first recorded 1704.

I like the part about its descent from the word "hand". Even today, this word has a definite connotation of dexterity, though now obviously referring to mental dexterity. Speaking of which, dexterity is a jolly cool word as well, is it not? The two sound rather similar, in fact. Clever. Dexterous. I won't write a compare and contrast essay, but my opinion remains that they sound as though they were designed to go together.

7 comments:

Faraway said...

Hello Therese!
Could I borrow your notes on 'clever' for our language forum? I feel reluctant to do it without your permission - although all this blogging thing seems to be in the public domain...
And thanks for the Dawkins delusion video. The Dawkins book seems to be quite a sensation in your part of the world, as well as in Britain, judging by the BBC forum I sometimes visit. It doesn't seem so important in Russia though...
Best wishes
Elena

Therese said...

Sure! I'm afraid they're not very official, but if you can use them, then go ahead.

Yeah, Dawkins is fairly big over here. Although his books are largely a lot of hype about nothing - even other atheist philosophers seem rather embarrassed by his poor methods of reasoning.

Faraway said...

Thanks and good luck with words!

Barbara said...

I absolutely know what you mean. I'm into "persnickety" lately. It's a tough one to work into conversations in the check out line at the grocery store...

Emily Dickinson wrote that "language is a kind of romance in which we choose one word out from all the rest and then commit to it with an utterance."

Therese said...

That's a marvelous quote! Perhaps I'll put it on my blog somewhere... I'm not nearly as familiar with Emily Dickinson's works as I ought to be.

Persnickety is a great word too. It's very euphonious for one who likes a word to sound like what it means.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Therese said...

Thank you! Of course, my older stuff was written when I was about 16-17; some of it was even older than that. It's nice to know that I'm improving with age and education. :)