English Words and Their Background

By George H. McKnight | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THIS book aims to introduce the reader to what has been called "the interesting World of Words." The study of words is not exclusively a study of roots and stems, of pre. fixes and suffixes, as is too frequently supposed. On the contrary its range of interest is as wide as life itself. It may be made to illustrate the cultural progress of the race, not only the development of the material elements of civilization, but the progress in knowledge and the changes that have affected modes of thought. But, above all, words are interesting on account of the human nature revealed. In the creation and use of words there appears not only the sense of beauty and the sense of humor, but a human fallibility exhibited in inexactness of knowledge and in seemingly capricious modes of procedure. In fact the variety of interest to be found in words corresponds with the variety of interest in complex human nature. All in all, the history of words introduces so much of the unexpected and strange that the subject matter becomes often less that of science than of romance.

But along with the interest and entertainment richly afforded by word-study as a science, there is a practical side, a side of value to one interested in language as an art. In order to operate an instrument efficiently one must be acquainted with the nature of its mechanism. In the same way in order to have an effective command of the resources of the English vocabulary, one must know about the materials of which the vocabulary is composed and the processes by which its words have reached their present meanings.

-v-

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