Dear Dr Wordsmith, Have you noticed that when someone is using a quotation whose source they cannot remember, they always say something like "as the poet says"?
Dr Wordsmith writes: Can't say I have, no.
Dear Dr Wordsmith, And another thing - have you ever noticed how anglocentric our dictionaries of quotations are? There might be the occasional French quote like Descartes' "Je pense, donc je suis", or something German like... well, I can't think of anything German off-hand except "Vorsprung durch Technik", which isn't really a quotation, is it? But the other day I came across a French dictionary of quotations and I was amazed to find that English quotations were almost entirely absent from it! It was all French stuff!
Dr Wordsmith writes: Your naivete astonishes me. All dictionaries glorify their own language. That is what they are there for. The other day I came across a rhyming dictionary. The title did not say that it was an English rhyming dictionary, but of course if you looked up a rhyme for `Weihnacht' or `Blitzkrieg' or lasagne, you wouldn't get very far. Incidentally, I discovered from this book that there is absolutely no truth in the old chestnut that `orange' is the only word in English which doesn't rhyme with anything. There are lots of words that don't have a rhyme.
Dear Dr Wordsmith, Such as?
Dr Wordsmith writes: `Culprit'.
Dear Dr Wordsmith, Any more?
Dr Wordsmith writes: `Angel'.
Dear Dr Wordsmith, Give us one more.
Dear Dr Wordsmith writes: `Tactful'. I hope that answers your question.
Dear Dr Wordsmith, I haven't asked a question yet My question is actually about the behaviour of soap. Have you ever noticed that sometimes, when a crack opens up in a bar of soap, it soon fills with dirt and you get this rather dark and distasteful infill in the soap, a bit like a rogue vein in a piece of marble?
Dr Wordsmith writes: Yes, I have. The best way to deal with it is gouge it all out with a nail file.
Dear Dr Wordsmith, No, that was not my question. I was going to ask if there was name for this feature of soap, but first I was going to draw your attention to what happens in small country lanes, which only have room for one vehicle at a time. The surface over which the wheels pass is always clear, but down the middle of the lane there is very often a line of earth thrown there by the wheels, which gradually acquires permanency, a bit like a parting in one's hair?
Dr Wordsmith writes: No, I haven't. But then I do not waste much time in the countryside, that blasted desert where licensed premises are few and far between. So what is the point of this mud down the middle of the lane?
Dear Dr Wordsmith, Well, it has struck me that this solid line of earth is not unlike the runnel or vein of dirt in a cake of soap and I wondered if there might be some generic team for both?
Dr Wordsmith writes: Not as far as I know. There may well be some wise Wiltshire word to describe it, and if you should ever come across it, do us a favour and keep it to yourself, will you? Next!
Dear Dr Wordsmith, Reverting to the rhyming dictionary which you mentioned earlier, it does occur to me that modern poetry has more or less abandoned rhyme, and modern poets will have no use for a rhyming dictionary. So is there any kind of dictionary that modern poets would have a use for?
Dr Wordsmith writes: A dictionary of quotations. They might get some idea of proper poetry from it.
Dear Dr Wordsmith, Oooh, who got out of bed the wrong side this morning, then! Incidentally, do you happen to know where that expression "getting out of bed the wrong side" comes from ?
Dr Wordsmith writes: I neither know nor care. And if you had been subjected to such a battery of inane queries, you too might be a bit frazzled. You will find me at the bar of the Printer's Widow in 10 minutes' time. My price for consultation will be a pint. Good day, sir!
Dr Wordsmith will be back soon. Keep those queries rolling in!Reuse content