As I’m sure you know by now, WildTangent Studios recently released their newest game, Word Science.
And, this game has me thinking about words… obviously.
I find etymology (the origin of a word) fascinating and I’ve found some really cool tools (and places) for investigating my favorite (or least favorite) words… beyond my beloved dictionary and thesaurus, that is.
Grammar Girl – I love Grammar Girl. She has super interesting, very educational, entertaining, and short(!) podcasts about all things English. Just the other day, I learned about “How A Napron Became An Apron.” I suggest you check it out.
Google – Yes, the search engine. In the US (this may be available elsewhere, I’m not sure), they have integrated a cool way to learn about words. If you wanted to learn more about… say, “apron,” then just type “define:apron” into Google. You’ll see a cool definition that maps the origin and shows usage over time. You may have to hit the “expand” arrow at the bottom to see everything.
Google Books Ngram Viewer – Another Google tool is the Ngram Viewer. This goes through the digitally uploaded manuscripts in Google books and creates a graph that shows how frequently the word you’re looking for appears. Again, I used “apron.” It really has some strange peaks, then a gradual increase, then drops off after the 1950s and is only recently coming back into usage.
Online Etymology Dictionary – This dictionary traces the history of a word. This site is all about etymology (as the name implies). I present to you, “apron.” According to this site, “napron” was around until the 16th century.
For word nerds, these tools are treasure troves of geek out time!
Do you know the history of your favorite word? Or, do you have other word nerd tools to share? Tell me about it in the comments!