Riddle me this

| No Comments
            

My light bedtime reading lately has been from a fascinating little book called The Making of English, by Henry Bradley. Bradley was a mostly self-taught linguist and lexicographer who would eventually become editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Making of English, published in 1904, is a compact, elegant distillation of everything he had learned about the development of the English language.

It's not a quick read, but it's often quite delightful. Here's a prime example from the chapter on how the meanings of words change over time:

A word was needed to describe the action of interpreting the meaning of written characters; and our ancestors supplied the want by using the verb read (in Old English rǣdan), which meant, like its modern German equivalent rathen, to guess a riddle. The noun riddle (in Old English rǣdels) is a derivative of this word. To the early English a piece of writing was, we see, a mystery which only the wise could solve.

The Making of English is available as a free download at Archive.org. Happy riddling.

Leave a comment

The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

About This Entry

This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on February 15, 2013 1:19 PM.

Twitter & badness was the previous entry in this blog.

I'm hosting "An Evening of Speculative Fiction," February 28th is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Archives