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Take a Word.... Word: Etymology, How We Use Words and a Short Story

Updated on September 15, 2018
annart profile image

Ann likes to research the history of words, to experiment with them and to encourage others to use fresh words and idioms.

Etymology

Germanic; Dutch ‘woord’ and German ‘Wort’, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin ‘verbum’, all meaning ‘word’.


Special Words

For my Mum on her 75th birthday
For my Mum on her 75th birthday | Source

Definition of 'word' (wəːd)

Noun singular: word; noun plural: words

  • a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed
  • a term or a name for something
  • a single distinct conceptual unit of language, comprising inflected and variant forms (oh! oh? oh (intonation falling in disappointment))
  • the smallest amount of something spoken or written (e.g. ‘a’)


Words

Short words, medium-sized words, long words, it all depends on the syllables or beats of a word.

The word ‘thorough’ has 2 syllables, ‘tho / rough’, and English being awkward the ‘tho’ says ‘thŭ’ (short ‘u’) and the ‘rough’ says ‘rŭ’, though in American English I believe the ‘rough’ says ‘rō’ (long o). Of course the word ‘rough’ on its own says ‘ruff’! No wonder some have difficulty with our pronunciation, let alone the spelling.


Useful and Meaningful

Camping site tariffs
Camping site tariffs | Source
This phrase when round the world after the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo Magazine
This phrase when round the world after the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo Magazine | Source

Usage

Words can please, shock, hurt, soothe, lull, surprise and much, much more.

They can get you a job, they can change someone’s mind, they can mean the difference between yes and no, between right and wrong.

They have ‘nuance’, meaning different things depending on the tone or intonation in which they are delivered; sometimes also depending on the spelling. Take ‘no’. Say it in different ways - with a voice that’s harsh, pensive, undecided, definite… and so on.

They have shape, outline, visual impact.

They can take shape in type-script, handwritten script where letters are separate, cursive script where letters flow one to another when we use our own unique handwriting (not one person’s is the same as another’s, ever).

They can appear in many fonts, they can be bold, italic, underlined, in lower or upper case.


Varieties

Words appear in each language, sometimes even in picture form. Some are written from left to right, others right to left, some from top to bottom.

You’ll come across nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions…. ok, I know, that’s enough!

‘Inverted commas’, ‘speech marks’ or “quotes” can enclose some words. Anyone can assemble them in phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, stories….. you know the rest.


Information

What’s going on in the world? Words in a newspaper will let you know, in headings, sub-headings and articles. Subtitles are provided if you can’t hear the sounds of a film or a television programme. A friend’s written words will give you up-to-date personal news in an email or a letter.

How do you find your way? Signs decorated in words give you directions, tell you what village you’re entering, what shops you have on your high street, what station you’re travelling from or the address for a letter to be delivered.


What can you find out?

How old?  How long?  How high?....
How old? How long? How high?.... | Source
Which way shall we go?
Which way shall we go? | Source

The Bigger Picture

By now, you’ve got the picture. As soon as you start thinking about when and where words are used, the list is endless. Look around you! I bet you can see words wherever you are. How many will depend on your situation but there will be some; even the countryside offers a wooden post by a stile, pointing to ‘Church’, ‘High Street’ and ‘Public Path’. Isn’t that amazing?

Not only do we have all that but we can use words in so many ways, all created by ourselves; phrases which mean something other than the literal, phrases which can make people laugh, cry, ponder and much more. Amazing!

Let’s have a look at some of those phrases, sayings, idioms; you see, already we have a choice of three slightly different nouns! Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.


Wally

Wally wanted a word with his boss. He was fed up with his job, wanted more variety in his daily tasks. Word had it that the boss was looking for someone to take over the sub-editor’s position.

The upshot of it all was a straight ‘No!’ The boss said he was too young, Wally said he was up to it, the boss said that his word was law, Wally got hot under the collar and… well, they had words. By the time Wally returned to his desk, annoyed but strangely excited, he’d resigned. He cleared his desk, said goodbye to the few colleagues he respected, and walked out onto the street with a jaunty air.

Wally had taken his boss at his word when the latter had promised good prospects and promotion when they’d first met. He’d really thought his word was his bond. But no, it seemed not. He should never have believed a word he said. Trouble was, none of it was in writing so it would just be his word against the boss'. Guess who’d win?


Memoirs

‘So now what?’ thought Wally. He could write; he knew he could write well. He knew that when his words touched the page they danced and sang, they rang out loud and clear.

His words bounced back from that page, hung in the air and lingered in people’s minds, impressing many and even influencing a few.

‘Another newspaper? No. I think not.’ The words in Wally’s head tripped over themselves in an effort to surge forth; dare he try what he’d dreamed of? Dare he venture forth on his own, move abroad to the sunny climes of the Côte d’Azur, finish those long-stifled memoirs.

The memoirs had remained fettered in that stuffy drawer for years. They always niggled at the back of his brain. He often imagined his somewhat wordy tome as a hostage, just waiting for the right moment to be freed, enduring torment, a lack of air and bursting to speak outright, tell its tale. It would need some editing, some careful wording, if he was to be taken seriously. Usually the words just tripped off his tongue and decorated the page.


Off to the publisher

Now was the time. His girlfriend had just given him the heave-ho so no ties. He’d received not a word from the publishers he’d approached all those years ago, so time to try some more. He could do this; he was ready. Just pen a carefully worded email, make sure he sold his story well. He had to polish his lines, learn his words in order to give the right impression.

Wally could do that. Wasn’t he a wordsmith after all? So, after hours of work, typing word for word from his draft which had last seen the light of day when Wally was 10, he had his manuscript. Of course, there was much more to include now!

Well, the South of France provided him with a suitably typical house in the hills. Those French girls were oh so beautiful that he was somewhat distracted from his writing. However, he finally sent off the memoirs, his words of wisdom to echo his life. He went back to the Mademoiselles and thought no more about it. Marketing? What marketing?


The Life of Riley

By the beautiful sea of the Cote d'Azur
By the beautiful sea of the Cote d'Azur | Source

Success or Failure?

Then, one hot day as he sat on his verandah, an email came through,

‘Give me the word when you’re ready to publish and we’ll go for it!’

A publisher had responded! At long last he had that break; he could start living. A phone call followed shortly after. A few points needed clarification.

‘A word to the wise, Wally. Make sure we get that next book from you within the month, won’t you? How you’ve adapted to the French way of life, something along those lines.’

‘Oh, my word!’ thought Wally. ‘How am I going to meet that deadline?’ he said out loud.

‘Well,’ replied the publisher, ‘Here’s an incentive for you. A quick word in the ear of that TV producer and we could have a series based on your memoirs.’

Wally’s heart wasn’t in it. He rushed, tripped over his words, his standard slipped. Within three weeks the result was sent and ‘An Englishman’s Conquests in the South of France’ zipped into the publisher’s Inbox.

Sadly, after publication it didn’t take long before the word was out that Wally had not lived up to his previous standard. The reviews were not kind. Wally was thick-skinned (or just thick?),

‘Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.’

Not strictly true as it was his way with words which had been his downfall. Ah well, back to the writing board. A little more application on ‘Word’ should produce a better press. The next book would be entitled, ‘Wally’s Words on Life, the Universe and Everything’; bound to be a best seller.

……………………………………………………………………………………..................

Footnote:

‘wally’ can be used in a derogatory way (in Britain at least): ‘What a wally!’ = ‘What an idiot!’


Words and Writers

One of the most famous quotes from the Bible is John1:1, from the English Standard Version, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' Quite a powerful message.

Words are our life, maybe our profession, certainly our passion. We can use them or lose them. We can delve into the great play-pen of coloured words and have the time of our lives or we can just plod on with the words within our comfort zone.

Writing is an art, as are painting, drawing, sculpture, acting and many more. As with any facet of art, you want to do your best, you want others to enjoy your end product.

So which of these are you? A player on the stage of words or a tag-along stage-door groupy? A blacksmith who lovingly swirls the metal or a bodger who says ‘that’ll do’.

Explore all the words you come across! Take those words! Mould them into an interesting shape, glaze them with a glossy finish and proudly display your art with a touch of panache!


Play with the Colours of Words

Which colours will you choose?
Which colours will you choose? | Source

Sources

Google dictionary

What do you read?

Which type of reading appeals to you most?

See results

© 2015 Ann Carr

Comments

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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Hi Flourish! Thank you so much for your lovely comment.

      What a great idea using 'Wally' for a cat! There's also that lovely film about the robot called Walleee isn't there? Then of course there's the 'Where's Wally?' cartoon. Can't think of any more at the moment but I dare say there are some!

      Thanks again!

      Ann

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      3 years ago from USA

      I love what you do with your topics -- unique! This one was especially clever. I didn't know about the English term, "Wally." I'll save that up as a special cat name.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Velur: Thank you for your great comment. The 'world of words' certainly is a great place to be!

      Ann

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      3 years ago from Dubai

      Great read! Writing is an art and words can paint many pictures! The world of words is an great place to be in!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Frank. I'm honoured and flattered to have you following this series. Your loyalty is much appreciated.

      Ann

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      3 years ago from Shelton

      to use word in your take a word project.. wonderful... you're right words can please, shock, surprise.. et al.. I am a loyal follower of this little series..bless you

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Hi Maj! You're right that we take them for granted; it's not until we look at and think about the words we use that we realise their true impact. Yes, the good old Bee Gees song!

      Thanks for reading and for your valued input.

      Ann

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 

      3 years ago from australia

      My word! What a fascinating and informative hub regarding words. I'm thinking how much we take words and all communication, day in, day out, for granted. Thinking also of a song - 'It's only words and words are all I have- to take your heart away....' Yes, with words we can make, break, love, lie, the list is endless. Thanks Ann -

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Thank you so much, Jo. What a lovely thing to say! Glad you liked it.

      Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Venkatachari M: What a wonderful comment! Thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub.

      Ann

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      3 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Ann, you've certainly polished this with a dash of panache. Simply brilliant. Great series!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      3 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Ann, you certainly polished this little gem with a distinct dash of panache. Simply brilliant.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      3 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Great work crafting a long hub with a single word - "word". Your skills are wonderful. I appreciate you very much.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Thank you so much Shyron. I'm glad this is 'up your alley' or 'your bag'!

      Good to see you today.

      Ann

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      3 years ago from Texas

      Ann, this is brilliant, I absolutely love your play-on-words. Being a Logophile the last paragraph is “right-up-my-alley.”

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Paula. Great to see you. I'm so glad you enjoyed this and I'm delighted with your kind comments.

      Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks again, manatita. Appreciate it.

      Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Aww, bill; you make me blush. Praise indeed coming from you. I'm thrilled that you're a fan. I especially love the phrase 'talented Brit'! Never been called that before - lots of other things, but never that! Trouble is, you're giving me a lot to live up to. Back to the writing board!

      Hope you enjoy your evening with your lovely family.

      Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks again, Theresa. You're lovely. We had a great day today and even went on the beach, dodging the showers!

      Hugs.

      Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Glad you liked Wally, Chris. Thanks for the kind words.

      I've just had a look at your link; I can't look at this hub in the same light again! It's funny though because when I saw the link, my mind immediately went to that song. Great stuff!

      Ann

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I LOVE this! Clever, creative and a pure joy to read......I give you my word!!....Peace, Paula

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Chris. Wally changed his character several times before I published this so I'm glad I stuck with this one!

      Will have a look at the link.

      Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, manatita, for your kind comments. Good to see you.

      Ann

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      3 years ago from london

      Me again, the obvious. I didn't say that Wally's story stood out. Very brilliant and cleverly done, Ann.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I hope people realize just how clever and creative this series is in your capable and talented hands. This is so well-done, Ann, just as all the others in this series. Bravo! Brilliant! I'm a huge fan of this series and of your writing.

      Happy Sunday you talented Brit!

      bill

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      3 years ago from southern USA

      Aw, you are so kind. Yes, I used that phrase all the time growing up to stop the bullies with their nonsense, and it was effective back in those days hahaha. Oh, I just know your 15 year old French visitor is having a delightful time in your beautiful area, especially with a beautiful tour guide such as yourself. Keep enjoying life to the full! Blessings to you and yours across the Pond

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Good background on "word" and I loved the character, Wally, somebody most of us here can identify with. But your emphasis on the word, word, caused me to keep thinking of this Family Guy episode which is really annoying. :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WNrx2jq184

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      3 years ago from london

      Very well written and exquisite Hub. Quite fun and interesting too. A very intelligent approach.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Theresa. You always bring a ray of sunshine into my day with your comments and there is only rain here at the moment! Should clear up though; hope so, as I have a 15 year-old French visitor to entertain and I want to visit as many places as possible in our lovely neck of the woods.

      I think the 'sticks and stones..' saying came about more for children to use as a 'weapon' against the bullies. I remember using it when I was at school though it didn't always work! I agree with you in that words can hurt the soul so are probably more harmful in many respects.

      Thanks for sharing. I'm always pleased when you knock on my door.

      Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, John. Glad you liked this. I have some of your hubs to catch up on. Trying to write and entertain guests at the same time!

      Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Hi DJ. I like that I make it 'sound delicious'. Thank you for your kind comments.

      I think I've seen that Chevy Chase movie; just the sort of film I enjoy. I always look at words as though they colour a piece of writing.

      Thanks for calling in on this Sunday.

      Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      mckbirdbks: Thank you for such kind words and encouragement. Much appreciated. I will add your word 'courage' to my list for this series.

      Good to see you on a wet and muggy Sunday morning!

      Ann

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      3 years ago from southern USA

      Where would our very existence be without the language of words or words in every aspect of life ... you have brought that powerful point home here in this exceptionally creative piece.

      I have always been puzzled by that phrase, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, " as words can certainly harm us, so I am mindful to try to build up rather than tear down. Our little tongue can surely bring life or death as God reminds us.

      Love your short story ...poor Wally. I always enjoy your personal photos as they add so much to the overall hub.

      Peace and blessings always

      Sharing

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Another great article in this series Ann. Wally's story was interesting too.

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 

      3 years ago

      Ann, great story. Poor Wally did not think his plan through. This

      story reminded me of a Chevy Chase movie, "Funny Farm". The character, Andy, quits his city job as a sports writer, and he and his wife buy a farm in Vermont. Andy has big aspirations to become a novelist. His only problem is that he lost all motivation to write.

      The best intentions can fall flat without the inspiration to create.

      It is a typical Chevy Chase movie with characters who bring so much charm to this little Vermont story. The perfect movie for a boring winter's eve.

      Your Wally sounds like he is in the same boat as Andy.

      I loved your inspiration as you see words that have color to motivate

      and sculpt your master piece. You do make it sound delicious!

      Thank you,

      DJ.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Well, my vote leads in the poll, momentarily. You're going to teach me something, if I am not careful. This is well researched. I see the humor, and I see the seriousness of your work here. What a challenge to write a presentation with one word at the root of it. Just one word - courage.

    working

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