Stand back! It's another newsletter from A Way with Words.
This past weekend on A Way with Words we talked about crossword puzzles. This coming weekend superstar solvers from across the continent will gather in Brooklyn, New York, to test their abilities on puzzles put together by the country's best constructors. It looks like it's going to be the biggest tournament ever. More about the tournament here:
We also talked about saying "rabbit, rabbit" or "bunny, bunny" on the first day of the month, about "feel bad" vs. "feel badly," and whether it should be "driver license," "drivers' license," or "driver's license" (or "licence" for our brothers and sisters across the way).
Here you can see the entry for "rabbit, rabbit" in the Dictionary of American Regional English:
We also talked about why we capitalize the pronoun "I." As we discuss on the show, we didn't always. You can see some of the various orthographic forms of Middle English pronouns here:
Like semicolons? Then join the newly created and semi-serious Semicolon Appreciation Society:
Thanks go this week to Soft Skull Press for sending us a copy of "Curse and Berate in 69+ Languages" and to the Archangel Foundation for a copy of Daniel Defoe's 1726 "An Essay on the Original of Literature." Opposite ends of the language spectrum, to be sure, but both welcomed with open eyes and minds!
There's one passage from Defoe that we want to share. It's about language as spoken by the original inhabitants of the New World. (We regularized the capitalization to make it more readable.)
"So ignorant has the world been of the use of letters […] that we find upon the discovery of any of the unknown parts of the world, and particularly in America, they had not only no knowledge of letters, but they had no notion of forming speech into any intelligible descriptions, but by meer sound and speaking with the mouth, which by custom they learn'd from one another; and hence it was, that they had such an infinite variety of different languages (if it be proper to call them languages) or rather differing dialects of the same language, that you were no sooner pass'd from one tribe to another, but you found they understood little or nothing of the other's speech."
Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett