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Today's Word



Oct 12, 2020
This week’s theme
Words about words and language

This week’s words

The endonym map of the world (detail)

Previous week’s theme
Words coined after mythical creatures
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with Anu Garg

Do you believe there’s something to nominative determinism? It’s a fancy term for the idea that our names determine our destiny. Perhaps the lexicographer Noah Webster’s (16 Oct 1758-1843) name did determine his destination.

A webster is, literally, a weaver. And what is compiling a dictionary but assembling it one thread/word at a time? Also, if you go by his first name, he did herd words in one place, in the style of Biblical Noah:

Noah Webster,
Word herder.
Herded words from A to Z*
Into An American Dictionary.

He’s best known for his An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), but he published all sorts of stuff, including textbooks, his own version of the Bible (Common Version), newspaper articles, and more.

Besides writing, he served as a legislator in two states (Connecticut and Massachusetts), started an anti-slavery group (Connecticut Society for the Abolition of Slavery), co-founded a college (Amherst College), founded a newspaper (American Minerva, New York’s first daily), and served as a teacher, lawyer, soldier, and more.

And you thought you didn’t have time?!

This week marks Webster’s 262nd birthday and in his honor we’ll feature words about words and language.

*Yes, Z rhymes with dictionary around here. If that puppy answers to zed in your part of the world, you get to write your own verse! Zee or zed, let inspiration flow! Share your Webster tributes (in verse) below or email us at words@wordsmith.org.
(The one I wrote is a clerihew, but you can choose any format for your verse.)



noun: A name used internally to refer to a place, people, language, etc.
For example, Germany’s endonym is Deutschland, because that’s what Germans call their country.

From Greek endo- (inside, within) + -onym (word, name). Some related words endogenous and endogamy

“PLU [People Like Us] is the English elite’s secret name for their own upper-middle-class tribe ... So I’ll be a good little anthropologist and call this tribe by its own smugly self-satisfied endonym.”
Kate Fox; People Like Us; New Statesman (London, UK); Oct 10, 2014.

The mosque is too far from home, so let's do this / Let's make a weeping child laugh. -Nida Fazli, poet (12 Oct 1938-2016)

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