A is for Anu

Anu Garg, that is.

You haven’t heard of him? Well, there are a quarter million word lovers in 200 countries who subscribe to his  A-Word-A-Day column (AWAD) which The New York Times calls “the most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass mail in cyberspace.”

I signed right up after I heard him speak about The Dord, The Diglot, and An Avocado or Two: the Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-so-Common Words (2007) at my local independent bookstore, Village Books in Bellingham, Washington.

Here’s the entry on “avocado” which should give you a tasty sample of his style:

The word originated in the Aztec language Nahuatl, where it was called ahuacatl, meaning “testicle” because of its shape. When Spanish conquerors invaded South America, they pronounced the name of the fruit as aguacate. The name also morphed into avocado, influenced by the now obsolete Spanish avocado, meaning “lawyer” or “advocate.”

Garg addresses seventeen other words starting with “A.” Some are unusual like “accismus” and “Anagnorisis” and some are ordinary like “antibody” and “admiral.” There’s always something to learn. An “Annie Oakley,” for example, is a free pass to an event. To find out why, I guess you’ll have to read The Dord, The Diglot, etc, but I can’t resist relaying what a “diglot” is: somebody who speaks two languages. Like Garg, for example.

English is Garg’s second language. He comes from Uttar Pradesh (literally “Northern State”), the most populous state in India. While he was a computer science student at Case Western University in Cleveland, he became interested in words, wondering about their origins and development, so in 1994 he started A-Word-A-Day––AWAD as he refers to it.

Even though almost ten years have elapsed since I heard Garg speak, I remember this statement, “I don’t pick words. They raise their hands and say ‘Pick me.’ In the introduction to The Dord,D he writes, “Each word has a biography. It tells us about its parents, where it was born which corners of the world it traveled, and what twists and turns it took to reach where it is today. That biography of a word––the story behind it––is called etymology (from Greek etymos: true)

Here’s what’s true for me: I love Anu Garg’s daily dispatches and I love studying words. That interest explains why my wife gave me a subscription to the online Oxford English Dictionary this year and why we have a collection of books on words. So, my 2017 A-Z Blog Challenge will derive material from those sources. I hope you’ll enjoy references to Foyle’s Philavery, The Superior Person’s Book of Words, The Word Museum, and others.

Meanwhile, Anu Garg’s half century birthday is coming up on April 5th. Why not sign up for his column, buy, or check out from the library, one of his books (The Dord…, A-Word-A-Day: A Romp Through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in the English Language or Another Word-A-Day) . P.S. He’s also written the foreword to Limericks in the Time of Trump.

What better thanks could there be for an individual who has brought such positive attention to the English language?

 

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