Category Archives: writing: etymology

To Hell With It – How we imagine the evil afterlife

Since reading Orwell’s 1984 I’ve often thought about the climax in Room 101 and the idea of somebody using my worst fear against me. The idea is fascinating, because a fear can manifest itself in so many forms, but can be so particular to the individual. In the novel the malevolently regulated Ministry of Love have stockpiled information on citizens of Orwell’s dystopic world and use this information to discover a person’s deepest fear. They then use that fear against the individual to finally make them submit.

A photograph of a dark grill with light coming through, representing a prison

This vision of unleashing a person’s deepest fear to take away their humanity reminds me a lot of hell. The idea of hell has been something of a fascination of mine for some time. It all started when watching Nick Cave live, where I swore that the ground was opening up beneath me (anyone who has seen Nick’s recent tour will probably understand). Hell and fire, eternal torture, and the underworld are all connected. But where did this notion of “underworld” come from, what form does it take, and why does it go down into the earth? Continue reading

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Spking fnetics: Bil Brysn’s “Muthr Tung” & txt spk :-o

Image courtesy of Penguin Books, click for link

In 1990, Bill Bryson’s comprehensive book about the history of the English language, Mother Tongue was published. In it, Bryson analyses the origins and evolutions of the English language from its conception to the date of publication of the book. Throughout the book, he places emphasis on the mixed etymological origins of many words and phrases.

Bryson notes various spelling anomalies in the English language. Some include the use of gh as an f sound, for example in enough, or the use of silent letters, such as the s in aisle. Much of the reason for many of the obscure spellings occur due to archaic spellings from  mixed cultural origins, for example debt‘s silent b, with origins in the Latin word debitum, or the French origins of the spelling of debonnaire. Continue reading

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Filed under Words, writing: etymology, writing: non-fiction, writing: opinion