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May 5, 2003
This week's theme
Words about words

This week's words

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Words to describe people
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with Anu Garg

"So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with," wrote philosopher John Locke (1632-1704). While there's truth in Locke's assertion, it's possible to overcome the difficulty to some extent. We construct small unambiguous building blocks, define them as precisely as we can, and then put them to work for bigger purposes (though in some languages, such as German, we often get carried away).

This week we feature word words, or meta-words, all of which end with the combining form -onym (name or word).


(EK-so-nim) Pronunciation

noun: A name used by foreigners to refer to a place or people, instead of the name used by those who live there. For example: Cologne (native term: Köln), Florence (Firenze), Japan (Nihon/Nippon), Italy (Italia).

[From Greek ex- (out) + -onym (word, name).]

"Roger Payne: ... Vienna being an exonym, which is a name that other people use, but the German or Austrian form is Wien."
Renee Montagne; Interview; Morning Edition (National Public Radio); Sep 2, 2002.

"The exonyms Thai-Islam (from the part of the Siamese) and MalayMuslim (from the part of the Malaysians) present an image of the Jawi that is incomplete or pejorative in their eyes."
Pierre Le Roux; To Be Or Not To Be...The Cultural Identity of the Jawi; Asian Folklore Studies (Nagoya, Japan); 1998.


The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

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