Let's begin with the basics. Uh oh, I can see the grammarians drooling. I will be very sketchy with these explanations. If you wish to expound upon them below, please feel free.
Nouns are divided into four types: proper, common, collective and abstract. A Proper Noun is a name of some particular person or place (America, Obama) and is always capitalized. A Common Noun is a name given in common to every person or thing of same class or kind (politician, music, writing). A Collective Noun is the name of a number of persons or thing taken together and spoken of as one whole (we did a diary on this here). Lastly, an Abstract Noun is usually the name of a quality, action or state considered apart from the object to which it belongs (honesty, judgment, poverty).
Adjectives can answer the question "What kind?" (big tent, stupid rule), "How much?" (some people, little effort) "Which one?" (blue state, second term), and "How many?" (two Senators, several lawyers). Primary kinds of adjective are possessive, demonstrative, interrogative and indefinite. Adjectives can also be divided as type (color, size, type, age, etc.), derived (made from nouns; sticky, shiny, smelly, etc.), compound (joined by a hyphen; upside-down, helter-skelter, etc.), numbers (1,2,3, few, some, etc.) and demonstrative (this, that, these, those, etc.).
The verb is perhaps the most important part of the sentence. A verb asserts something about the subject of the sentence and express actions, events, or states of being. Verbs can be transitive and intransitive. A ditransitive verb is one that can take a direct object and an indirect object at the same time (That awful debate gave me a headache). A finite verb makes an assertion or expresses a state of being and can stand by itself as the main verb of a sentence (the dog demolished its doghouse). Non-finite verbs cannot, by themselves, be main verbs (the angry man....). Another term for non-finite verb is verbal. There are four basic verb forms or tenses: base, past, present and future. A linking verb connects a subject and its complement. Verbs that reflect a change in state of being are sometimes called resulting copulas (the protesters turned ugly).
In the active voice, the subject and verb relationship is straightforward: the subject is active and the verb moves the sentence along (the Senate approved her). In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is inactive and is acted upon by some other agent or by something unnamed (she was approved by the Senate). Verb moods can be one of three attitudes that a writer or speaker has towards what is being written or spoken: an indicative mood, an imperative mood and a subjunctive mood. There is much more to verbs but we'd run out of space....
Adverbs are words that modify. Adverbs frequently end in - ly however, many words and phrases not ending in - ly serve an adverbial function and an - ly ending is not a guarantee that a word is an adverb. Adverbs can even come in phrase form, which is called an Adverb Clause (when the movie is over we will go have dinner). Even prepositional (He was stationed in England during the war) and infinitive phrases (I had to run to catch the bus) can act in the role of adverb. Adverbs can modify adjectives, but an adjective cannot modify an adverb (he had a wonderfully bright smile). We often use more and most, less and least to show degree with adverbs (most brightly, less skillfully). One can use the "as__as" form, as well (he was as tall as his father). Adverbs often function as intensifiers, conveying a greater or lesser emphasis to something. Intensifiers are said to have three different functions: they can emphasize, amplify, or downtone (I'm really angry, she completely rejected him, she almost quit her job).
The different kind of adverbs include adverbs of Manner (he spoke slowly), adverbs of Place (She has lived on the island since birth), adverbs of Frequency (he often eats alone), adverbs of Time (I'm leaving work early), Adverbs of Degree or Quantity (she sings fairly well), Adverbs of Affirmation and Negation (I certainly attended the show, he does not do that) and adverbs of Purpose (I shop online to get the best buys).
The other parts of speech include the pronoun, which can replace a noun. Using pronouns (he, you, she, they) will make your sentences less cumbersome and less repetitive. A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. It usually indicates the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence (the book is on the shelf, he lay beside her). A conjunction links words, phrases, and clauses in a sentence (and, because, but, however, in any case). An interjection is a word added to a sentence to convey emotion and is not grammatically related to any other part of the sentence (holy crap, Limbaugh is a jerk!).
Okay, enough dry grammatical exposition. Let's go alphabetically and look at some words that describe other words, whether it be speech or text.
An abbreviation is a shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase, used to represent the whole, as Dr. for Doctor, U.S. for United States, lb. for pound.
To abridge is to shorten by editing while retaining the basic contents of the book, speech, etc.
An abecedarian is a person who is learning the letters of the alphabet. Abecedary means something pertaining to the alphabet or placed in alphabetical order. Like this list.
Accidence is the study of inflection as a grammatical device. It can also describe a book of grammar fundamentals.
An acronym is word formed by combining the beginning letters of a name or phrase, as in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), or by combining the initial syllables of a series of words, as in radar (radio detecting and ranging. If it can't be said as a word, it is an initialism.
The puzzle called an acrostic is a series of lines or verses in which the first, last, or other particular letters when taken in order spell out a word, phrase, etc.
Something we see quite a bit of on the Web is adoxography, fine writing in praise of trivial or base subjects.
Forming new words by combining other words and/or word elements is called agglutination. Barackittude, Olbermanndate and Rushidiocy are a few I've made up.
Allegory is a form of extended metaphor in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative are equated with meanings that lie outside the narrative. The underlying meaning may have moral, social, religious, or political significance. Often, characters are personifications of abstract ideas such as charity, greed, or envy. The allegory is then a story with two meanings; a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning. Pilgrim's Progress is a good example of an allegorical novel.
Alliteration is the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of a word, commonly used for emphasis. It occurs in everyday speech in such phrases as tit-for-tat, bag and baggage, primrose path, look before you leap. Specifically, consonance repeats consonants and assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds.
An allusion is a brief reference to a person, event, place, or phrase which the writer assumes will be recognized. Allusions have the possible drawback of being dated. For example, a reference to Peck's Bad Boy might be understood by an older audience, but younger readers won't get it. On the other hand, an older audience might not catch a reference to Naruto.
An anagram is a word or phrase made by transposing the letters. Examples include god/dog, weird/wired, love/vole and Bolton/Notlob.
If you've taken the SAT, you will recognize the analogy, the comparison of two pairs which have the same relationship. Moran is to teabagger as latte' is to librul would be an example.
ASL, American Sign Language, is the dominant form of communication among the deaf communities of North America. Sign language is as old as mankind but it took Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet to standardize and popularize the signing technique.
Back-formation is creating a new word by removing an affix from an already existing word, (grunge from grungy) or by removing what is mistakenly thought to be an affix (pea from pease).
Needless and/or wearisome repetition of words in speaking or writing is something we've been exposed to quite a bit lately. We now have a name for it, battology.
Any book, reference work, periodical, etc., accepted as authoritative, informative, or reliable is a bible. The Greek root biblio also gave us bibliophile for a booklover and bibliography for a list of written references used in a text.
Coarse or vulgar language is known as billingsgate. The Billingsgate was a fish market in London...
"Billingsgate is the market where the fishwomen assemble to purchase fish; and where, in their dealings and disputes they are somewhat apt to leave decency and good manners a little on the left hand." ["Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1811]
The story goes that Cormac Teige McCarthy talked his way out of a difficult situation during negotiations of the takeover of the Blarney Castle by the occupying English forces. The name of his castle has become a synonym for flattering or wheedling talk or cajolery and people come from the world over to kiss the blarney stone to receive this gift. Of course, it might all be blarney.
Braille is a system of writing and printing for blind or visually impaired people, in which varied arrangements of raised dots representing letters and numerals are identified by touch. It was developed in 1829 by Louis Braille, who lost his sight at age three. An interesting thing about Braille is that, like digital computing, it is binary.
A commonplace remark or a trite platitude is a bromide. These usually express a popular thought which has lost originality and impact by long overuse. Older but wiser and you snooze, you lose are examples.
With the invention of telegrams came a language that was adopted for writing them. Cablese arose because telegraph messages were charged on a per-word basis. It is the shorthand forbear of texting.
The Greek root kakos (bad) gives us several words. Cacoepy or cacology is the incorrect pronunciation of a word or socially unacceptable diction. Cacography is poor handwriting or incorrect spelling. Using an intentionally harsh word or expression (usually deliberately offensive) instead of a polite one is cacophemism, and the word used is a caconym.
Beautiful handwriting is calligraphy. This can describe any nice penmanship but especially highly decorative handwriting.
Calque is a loan translation or a form of borrowing from one language to another while keeping the semantic components of a given term. An example would be Übermensch, translated into English as Superman.
A word that changes its meaning (and sometimes pronunciation) when it is capitalized is called a capitonym. A capitonym is a form of homograph. Sometimes the pair is unrelated (march and March). But often the capitalized form is a name which is etymologically related to the uncapitalized form (mother and Mother).
The incorrect or improper use of a word, catachresis, has been discussed here before.
If you put a list of words in descending order of importance, you are using catacosmesis. Give me world peace, a winning lottery ticket and a good steak would be an example.
The dictionary or encyclopedia uses a catchword at the top of each page. Also known as a running header or a guideword, it helps you find the page you want more quickly.
A clerihew is a very specific kind of short humorous verse. It has four properties; it is biographical (usually poking fun at famous people), it has 4 lines, the rhyme structure is AABB and the first line consists of the subject's name. An example by its creator Edmund Clerihew Bentley:
George the Third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.
A clitic is an unstressed word that only occurs in combination with another word. The m in I'm or the s in her's are examples.
Words that have a common origin are cognate. They may occur within a language (guard and ward, from wer- "to perceive, watch out for") or across languages (night or star, both from Proto-Indo-European words that sound and look similar in Indo-European languages).
Collocation is a sequence of words or terms which occur together more often than would be expected by chance. For example, you hear vacuum with carpet more often that in its scientific connotation. If the expression is heard often the words become stuck together in our minds, such as crystal clear or plastic surgery.
A colloquialism is an expression not used in formal speech or writing. A few good examples are ya'll, ayup or wanna. The exception, of course, is when the writer or speaker is trying to sound like "one of the gang" as some are wont to do (Sarah Palin, I'm lookin' at you!)
Transfer of information such as thoughts and messages is communication. The basic way to communicate are through sight and sound. The creation of writing was a major jump forward for the evolution of society because it permits the preservation of communications from the past.
A concise, yet comprehensive compilation of a body of knowledge is known as a compendium. In most cases it will be concerned with one topic. The Oxford English Dictionary is a prime example. A similar idea is the concordance, a list of words used in a body of work including their immediate contexts.
A very important part of online communication is context. The parts of a text (or comment) that surrounds a particular word or phrase and determines its meaning can often be misunderstood. This can lead to disagreements, arguments and flame wars.
Connotation is an implied meaning or the associated or secondary meaning of a word; an expression in addition to its explicit or primary meaning. Opposite of denotation, which is the explicit meaning of a word. An example might be Father. The denotation is male progenitor but the connotation could be male parent, comforter, reader of bedtime stories or whatever one thinks of when confronted with that word.
A contranym is a word that can be the opposite of itself. Some examples include aloha, bimonthly, cleave, fast, handicap, impregnable, root, scan, temper, vital and weather.
A crossword is a puzzle in which an arrangement of numbered squares is to be filled with words running both across and down in answer to correspondingly numbered clues. A popular word game, journalist Arthur Wynne is generally credited with its invention in 1913, though a type of crossword puzzle was found inscribed on an ancient tomb in Egypt. Cryptic crosswords are crossword puzzles in which each clue is a word puzzle in and of itself.
Your UID could be considered a cryptonym, a secret or coded name. The Greek root kryptós (hidden) also gives us the cryptogram (one of my favorite word puzzles) and cryptography, a system of secret or coded writing.
Derivation is the process through which new words are formed by adding a prefix, suffix or other word element to an existing word. The derivative can also be called a paranym or conjugate (if the root is shared). Electricity is a derivative of electric.
A diacritic or diacritical mark is a mark or sign added to a letter or character to distinguish it from another of similar form. The cedilla of façade or the tilde in mañana are two examples. The diaeresis is a specific diacritical of two dots placed over the second of two adjacent vowels to indicate separate pronunciation, as in naïve.
A regional or social variety of a language is a dialect. It can be distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary. Dialect can also describe the language peculiar to the members of a group, especially in an occupation or a language considered as part of a larger family of languages or a linguistic branch.
Your diction is your choice of words, especially with regard to correctness, clearness, or effectiveness. The four generally accepted kinds of diction are formal, informal, colloquial, or slang. Any one of them may be correct in a particular context but incorrect in another. For example, you can use GOPers or Repuglicans here but would be ill-advised to use either in a speech before a mixed audience, instead using Republican.
A diminutive is a suffix that indicates smallness or qualities such as youth, familiarity, affection, or contempt. Tartlet, ramekin and cigarette are examples. Conversely, an augmentative denotes increased size or intensity. They are rare in English (as a prefix, super and mondo) but can be seen in the Spanish --ón and --ona.
A dipthong is a vowel that changes quality during its pronunciation. It "glides" with a smooth movement of the tongue from one articulation to another (boy, cow). This contrasts with "pure" vowels, or monophthongs (papa). The Hawai'ian language has numerous dipthongs such as lei, luau and kai.
A double reading, or twofold interpretation is known as a dittology. Probably the text most vulnerable to this is the Bible. Going back to Hawai'ian for another example, look at the double meanings of their verse. On the surface it may be telling of a tree or mountain, but underneath that is the comparison of a loved one to the object. Hence, one's mother becomes a strong mountain or lover, a flower lei.
A sweet talker may be said to be dulciloquent, or speaking sweetly.
A verbal aspect that expresses action continuing unbroken for a period of time is a durative. For the verb step the durative form is walk. Also called a continuative.
A dysphemism is the opposite of a euphemism. It is different from a cacophemism in that it is not always offensive. A good example is shit on a shingle for creamed chipped beef on toast (humorous rather than simply ugly). More recently, the linguist Kate Burridge has coined the term orthophemism to refer to a neutral name or expression.
Place-holder words like um, uh and well are known as embolalia. These are words not directly under the control of person's conscious mind and can include profanities.
Epenthesis is the addition of one or more sounds to a word, especially to the interior of a word. It can be innocuous like adding the n to a before a vowel or adding the slight p sound to warmth. But it can also be a mispronunciation as ath-a-lete for athlete.
One of my favorite writers is Oscar Wilde, who had a genius for epigram. An epigram is any witty, ingenious, or pointed saying tersely expressed. A couple of favorites are; A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing and There is no sin except stupidity.
An epigraph is an inscription on a statue or building. One example is the verse of Emma Lazarus on the base of the Statue of Liberty.
An adjective or phrase that is used to express the characteristics of a person or thing is an epithet. These can be complimentary (Richard the Lion-Heart) or not so much (Ivan the Terrible).
An eponym is a word based on or derived from a person's name. We have talked about these previously.
With all of these word diaries, the basic concept is etymology, the history of a word including its origins and derivation. Real etymologists determine a word's basic elements, earliest known use, and changes in form and meaning, trace its transmission from one language to another, identify its cognates in other languages, and reconstruct its ancestral form where possible. We just play around. ;)
Words of praise, often for a dead person, comprise a eulogy. But it is also a staple in introducing speakers, in nominating candidates, and on other such occasions. Disparaging words in such a context would be a dyslogy.
An exonym is a name used by foreigners for a place (Belfast for Béal Feirste, Rome for Roma) or a name used by foreigners to refer to a people or social group that the group itself does not use (Germans for Deutsche).
To amend by removing words, passages, etc., deemed offensive or objectionable is to expurgate. Thomas Bowdler, who published an expurgated edition of Shakespeare in 1818, gave us the more specific bowdlerize.
If you've seen the film Bedtime Stories, then you have seen someone fabulate or make up stories off the cuff.
One of the things I used to love to do when publishing my small 'zine was to play with fonts. Font originally referred to the process of casting the letters used in printing. In the days of "hot type" a font was one set of a typeface in a single size and style. Now it is still a style of typeface but, thanks to the computer, it can be any size we choose.
A crossword puzzle in which one has to fill in a list of words rather than use clues, is called a framework.
A French idiom or expression used in another language is a gallicism. For example ce'st la vie or Je ne sais quoi when used in English.
As applied to English, a gerund refers to what might be called a verb's action noun, which is one of the uses of the --ing form. More specifically:
In the phrase "Editing this article," (although this is traditionally known as a phrase, it is referred to as a non-finite clause in modern linguistics) the word "Editing" behaves as a verb; the phrase "this article" is the object of that verb. But the whole phrase "Editing this article" acts as a noun within the sentence as a whole; it is the subject of the verb "is."
A glossary is a list of terms in a text containing the definitions for terms used in that text. Traditionally, it appears at the end of a book and includes terms within that book which are either newly introduced or uncommon.
A symbol which is used to indicate a word is a grammalogue. @ for at, & for and and $ for dollar are examples.
The system of writing of a language is its graphology. This can differ greatly from its phonology, or pronunciation system. In Japanese or Arabic, for example, the graphology is very different than the phonology. Graphology is also the word for the science of handwriting analysis.
A henidiadys is two words linked by a conjunction to express a single complex idea. Sound and fury instead of furious sound is much more striking. Other names for hendiadys include two for one and figure of twinnes.
Heterography is different letters representing the same sound (--ight and --ite), or same letters representing different sounds (gun and gin).
A homograph is a word of the same written form as another but of different meaning and usually origin, whether pronounced the same way or not (bear, lead). A homophone is pronounced the same but has different spellings (heir and air). And a homonym is spelled and pronounced the same but has different meanings (bowl). Homonyms are, in the strictest sense, both homophones and homographs.
A series of words with the same or similar endings is homeoteleuton. A limerick is a form of this rhyme scheme.
Obvious and intentional exaggeration is hyperbole. This extravagant statement or figure of speech is not intended to be taken literally. Think of how many times you've said I've been waiting forever or heard I've told you a million times.
A hyperdisyllable is a big word for big words. It describes a word made up of more than two syllables.
When describing something, you can use a generic word or a more specific word. For example, you can say pasta or rigatoni. The generic word pasta is a hypernym while the specific rigatoni is a hyponym.
Do you have a pet name for you significant other? Baby or Sweetheart (or whatever you use) is a hypocorism.
Many times when reading a book with footnotes or end notes, you may come across the abbreviation ibid. This stands for ibidem and means that the reference is from the same source as the one preceding it.
One person's particular speech pattern is their idiolect. Keith Olbermann's idiolect is quite unique.
One thing that gives non-native speakers of English a lot of trouble is the idiom. This is because it is peculiar to itself grammatically and/or cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements. Some examples are under the weather, I didn't catch you or keep tabs on.
A dictionary of a peculiar dialect, or of the words and phrases peculiar to one part of a country, is called an idioticon. Though it sounds like it should be a book about the dialect of Fox Noise...
At the end of a book or article, you may find the index, a list, nearly always alphabetical, of the topics treated in the text.
Rendering a message from one language into another is interpretation. The interpreter must be fluent in both languages involved, adopt the delivery, tone and convictions of the speaker and speak in the first person. An ASL interpreter must relay words into signs and vice versa.
Invective is abusive, reproachful or venomous language used to express blame or censure. There is an awful lot of this being aimed at President Obama nowadays.
Irony is the discrepancy between what is said and what is meant, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated. There are different kinds of irony: in situational irony, expectations aroused by a situation are reversed. Cosmic irony or the irony of fate, works through fate, chance, or God. In dramatic irony the audience knows more than the characters, so that words and actions have additional meaning for the audience. Socratic irony is named after Socrates' teaching method, whereby one assumes a pose of ignorance in order to entice others into making statements that can then be challenged.
A word or phrase without any repeating letters is an isogram. That word is, itself, an isogram.
Japlish or Engrish is a non-standard variation of English often found in East Asian countries. It's also found on the packaging and labels of imports from East Asia to the U.S. The problem arises with the erroneous belief that Japanese (and other Asian languages) does not have a separate sounds for R and L. The Japanese language does not have a separate equivalent for the English L, so native Japanese speakers not fluent in English are often unable to distinguish between the R and L sounds. While the term is mocking, it is used mainly without malice and in reference to humorous misuses. Many examples can be found here.
A kenning is a figurative expression used in place of a name or noun, such as war of words for argument. It is found liberally in Old English and Old Norse poetry; storm of swords is a kenning for battle.
The use of literal or simple expressions, as distinguished from the use of figurative or obscure ones is kyriolexy. For example, one might say crooked politician rather than in the pocket of lobbyists. Some people might just call it straight talk.
That's the first part. If I've left anything out please let me know. The floor is now yielded to you...
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