I love words. I’m addicted to them. I love words that I can roll around in my mouth and feel them roll off my tongue: lugubrious; predilection; vociferous. Words that tie my tongue in knots: mnemonic; synesthesia. Words that have strange meanings: enchiridion—a book to be carried in the hand. Words that express things hard to describe: petrichor—the pleasant smell that accompanies the first rains after a spell of dry weather. Words that carry sound and music: tinkle; boom; crash. Words that are fun: higgledy; pollywog and snollygoster.
So what is a snollygoster? It’s a political thing, and I found out about it on a TED talk. Yup, I admit I’m addicted to TED talks as much as I am to words.
Who or what is TED?
TED was launched in 1984 as an invitation-only conference to bring together the innovative power of three fields: Technology, Entertainment and Design. It’s grown from a single conference to an annual open event that now includes scientists, philosophers, musicians, business and religious leaders, philanthropists and many others.
The TED website describes itself as: “a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks… from science to business to global issues…in more than 100 languages… we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers.”
TED also believes “passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.” And I believe the same about words.
So treat yourself to some summer downtime enjoy these TED talks about words (and finally find out what a snollygoster is).
What’s a snollygoster?
Etymologist Mark Forsyth shares entertaining word-origin stories from British and American history.
Go ahead, make up new words!
Lexicographer Erin McKean encourages the creation of new words to better express what we mean and make more ways to understand one another. She shares 6 ways to make new words in English including compounding and verbing.
Beautiful new words to describe obscure emotions
John Koenig loves words that express unarticulated feelings like lachesism —the hunger for disaster, or sonder—the realization that everyone else’s lives are as complex and unknowable as our own.
What makes a word real?
Who decides if new words like hangry, defriend, and adorkable make it into the dictionary? Language historian Anne Curzan takes a look at the people behind dictionaries and the choices they make.
Lets put the “awe” back in awesome.
Which of the following is awesome: your lunch or the Great Pyramid at Giza? Comedian Jill Shargaa calls for us to save the word awesome for things that truly inspire awe.
The joy of lexicography
Lexicographer Erin McKean looks at the ways today’s print dictionary is poised for transformation.
What we learned from 5 million books
Google Labs’ Ngram Viewer is a database of 5 million books from across centuries. Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel show us it works.
Just the beginning
Don’t limit yourself to the talks listed here. TED topics such as author talks, writing, creativity, storytelling and more are waiting to inform, entertain and inspire you. Enjoy!