Philology Will Get You Nowhere

I'm amused when people ask me language-related questions. First of all, they always preface these questions by saying, "Hey, Mr. Linguist…" Then they proceed on the assumption that I have memorized the entire Oxford English Dictionary (all 23 volumes) and am therefore qualified to detail the etymology of the phrase "liar, liar, pants on fire."

I should be flattered, although I am torn between annoyance that they presume so much and shame that I don't really know everything.

4 comments:

Ann said...

Ah, a fellow linguistics major who feels the same way...every time people ask what my major was, they have some wild and crazy question that they've waited their whole lives to ask someone. It's always sad to let them down. :( Or fun to make something up and have them think you are brilliant. :)

Joel said...

Good point. I'm actually pretty good at sounding like I know what I'm talking about, even when I have no idea.

lizzyland said...

I love the Oxford English Dictionary.

Jen said...

This book has all the answers:

The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way, by Bill Bryson.

I'm just a few dozen pages into it but it's entertaining and i pause many times to say things like, "What? I never knew!" or "oh reeeally!" or "ha!"

buy it today.