365 Days of Earrings

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Magnetic poetry, for Noah Webster's Birthday

I love words. I love etymology. I've loved dictionaries all my life. The only Christmas gift that my parents ever gave each other was the massive 1961 Wesbter's New Third International Dictionary that we hauled out during dinner at least once a week to look up the meaning or derivation or pronunciation of a word. "Won't it be funny in 50 years, when that book is old and it still says new?" I can remember my brother asking. I think he might still have it, 50 years later.

Today's Writer's Almanac listed the birthdays of three great writers: Oscar Wilde, Eugene O'Neill, and Gunter Grass. I considered flamboyant and earnest earrings for Wilde, dark and troubled ones for O'Neill, swastikas and tin drums for Grass. I couldn't come up with anything. Then I discovered that Noah Webster, the first great American lexicographer, was also born on October 16th. Word earrings! Perfect.

 Will magnetic poetry adhere to stainless steel earwires, I wondered. Barely. So I drilled a couple of holes and... presto: Earrings.

As I mentioned, I'm a big fan of dictionaries. But I am not a fan of English spelling. I often confide to my 3rd graders that it's too bad the guy who wrote the first dictionary was so bad at using the rules of phonics. We teach kids phonics, then teach them the exceptions to the rules before they can even begin to use the rules!

Is, the, was, come, are, they... just learn them. But do your best to sound out words. Laugh. Awesome. Night. Go ahead, try.

Noah Webster tried. Wikipedia says he Americanized some words, like theater and color and defense. He tried to change tongue to tung, but it didn't stick. But that attempt alone makes him a hero of the American revolution to me, even though he spent the war years at Yale rather than fighting the British.  

1 comment:

jwkrumich said...

I'm glad you didn't go for the "swastikas and tin drums" for Gunter Grass!