Some time ago, my interest in Latin took a sharp turn.
Honestly, I ran of the road.
Instead of studying Latin, instead of reading books in Latin, instead of reading books about Latin… I started tracking down the English words that had come from Latin.
On google books, I discovered an old book: A stem Dictionary of the English Language, by John Kennedy. I can’t remember what I was looking for that day, but it wasn’t this. Google has a funny way of pushing us off the path. Have you noticed that?
As I started reading, I was stunned by the influence Greek and Latin had on English. I already knew, as I believe everyone does, that English owes much to these two languages. But, I did not know how much. It’s more than I thought. It’s as if English were a congressman and Latin and Greek were American taxpayers.
Mr. Kennedy’s book, which is about 300 page long, is filled with words and their etymologies… but, it is also filled with old poetry. He uses the poetry to demonstrate the usage of the English words.
Honestly, some of the poetry was a bit much for me, so I started re-writing the book. Besides, I had a hunch there were more words out there… words, which did not make it into his book. I wanted to capture them. I needed a place to keep them.
So, as I said, I started re-writing the book.
Guys, we get more words from Latin and Greek than you think we do. Initially, I typed one large document. Later, I had to divide the book into two parts, Latin roots and Greek roots. Then, I had to divide it alphabetically. It is still growing. Currently, the Latin side is 267 pages long. The Greek side is 86 pages long. To put that into perspective, if I were to print the entire book, and stack it on the living room floor… my wife would scowl at me and send me to Office Depot for more paper.
Perhaps you are wondering… Why bother? Why study all of those words? Why track down all of those etymologies?
I will answer with one of my favorite quotes. The new series, Word Up! The Vocab Show, grew out of the book I am working on and out of this quote in The Pledge, by Michael Masterson:
“Words matter. They help us define meaning. We think with words. We learn with words. Words are the fundamental tools we use for communicating. If we use them well, we can cut, and shape, and polish our ideas precisely, and beautifully. If we use them sloppily, we put ourselves at an intellectual disadvantage. Words can help you think well. If you think well, you can plan well. If you plan well, you can work well. If you work well, you can accomplish almost anything.”