Trivia

Associating words with facts and history helps us to remember them. Here is some additional information about the words and topics you are learning in The World of Words, Eigth Edition.

  1. The first English dictionaries were actually meant to help people translate from English to Latin, much like our English-Spanish or English-Vietnamese dictionaries today. The concept of having a dictionary in English that lists words in alphabetical order and defines these words dates back to 1604. Samuel Johnson published a dictionary in 1775, which became a standard. Johnson included joke definitions. For example, a lexicographer (dictionary maker) is defined as a harmless drudge (or person who works hard at boring tasks). Perhaps the most important English dictionary is the Oxford English Dictionary. Starting in 1879, James Murray thought he would finish in ten years. But in 1889, he was only at the entry for ant. Murray often used his children to help him.
  2. Capriciousis related to the astrological sign Capricorn, the sign of the goat. Capricious may come from the word capro, the Latin word for “goat.” Like a capricious person, the movements (or capers) of a goat are unpredictable. However, Capricorns are known for their stability. Other people think that capricious comes from the head (caput) and hedgehog (riccio). The hair of a hedgehog stands on end, reminding people of someone who is frightened. Over time, according to this theory, the meaning of capricious changed from “frightened” to “unpredictable.” Note that other words related to caput also refer to the head. For example, we wear a cap on our head. To decapitate someone means “to cut off his or her head.” Which theory do you think makes more sense?
  3. Cosmopolitan is made from two roots. Cosmo means “world or universe”; polit means “city.” Both roots form other words. When the Russians send astronauts to outer space, they call them cosmonauts (naut means “sailor”). From polit we get such words as politics, police, and policy.
  4. Frivolous pastimes, like playing video games, are constantly being criticized by parents, educators, and the media. But video games have many educational values. They develop eye-hand coordination and reflex speed; they require memory and spatial reasoning abilities; and they are filled with literary and historical references.