Sunday, December 2, 2012


I ran into a new word (for me) while reading PEOPLE OF THE NOATAK, by Claire Fejes, 'the new edition of the 1960's classic', first published in 1966, this "new"edition was published in 1994.  The word is landlubber.  At first I thought it was a typo.  Instead it was an adventure in etymology.  Normally I'd just use the dictionary on my computer dock , but there was an electrical storm going on outside at the time so I wasn't about to turn on my computer.  I actually had to use old hard copy dictionaries, ergo a flashback to how I was taught to study etymology forty years ago when I was in college.  One English professor told us to keep all our old dictionaries, and even acquire as many as we could if we were going to be serious students of etymology.

The first dictionary I grabbed was "Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary" (1979).  When I didn't find it  there I was thinking typo again.  Yea.  Where's my edit pen?

Then I grabbed "The Random House College Dictionary" (1968), and there it was.

          landlubber (n) - a landsman or raw seaman.

This is one of those words that makes me giggle, but when I read the adjectives I started laughing out loud.  There were three adjectives listed - landlubberish, landlubbing, and landlubberly.  I would love for a comedian to get hold of these words.

Had I been on the computer I would have known in two seconds that it wasn't a typo, and I would have missed the etymology flash from the past.

Macmillan Dictionary online even provides the audio pronunciation, and gives this definition:

          landlubber - someone who does not know much about boats or the sea.

Another tidbit I got from Macmillan was that 90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing.  That's out of the millions of words out there.  Macmillan calls these red words; words used most often.  Landlubber is not a red word.

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