Words

Is it end of days for Roget's?

When you are searching for a word that is more precise than another though similar in meaning, you don't browse Piozzi's. Yet British Synonymy, the first English book of synonyms, was written by Hester Lynch Piozzi. Nor do you grab your Girard's. Published 76 years before Piozzi, the 1718 book of French words appears to be the first collection of synonyms in any language. What you reach for is your Roget's. Originally published in 1852, having been compiled over the course of more than four decades by the eponymous but strangely anonymous Peter Mark Roget, the thesaurus we know and love was not the first of its kind... Slate.

Also at Slate, a brief look at overwhelming anxiety.


When language explodes

Children typically acquire a few words very slowly and then around 2 years of age undergo a 'word explosion.' A cognitive scientist at the University of Iowa has built a mathematical model which suggests that this amazing phenomenon is not genetically controlled, as has long been thought. Instead children experience a burst in learning because language consists mostly of words that are medium-hard to learn. There are many fewer easy and hard words. The word spurt is just a byproduct of the learning process and the nature of language. The pattern of slow growth up until a crucial threshold is, apparently, true for many domains in which children learn, such as music, art, and athletics. Why Files, New Scientist, Bob McMurray.