Friday, February 1, 2008

Word usage/confusion

Having read a novel by Richardson previously I took little notice of various connotations for words which were already familiar. However, this could be because I was struck dumb by the wonderful story(yes I am serious loved it)blind, or because Richardson seems to have changed his writing style and restructured the way in which he writes from the time of Pamela until Clarissa. While Mathew Glasser picked up on the various differences in word usage from the 1700s until now I also noticed that there were familiar sounding words which held completely different meanings. I was most intrigued by the word "niggard" or "niggardly" which first appears on pg 81 Letter 13 in the 4th full paragraph where it states"riches left by one niggard to another, in injury to the next heir, because that other is a niggard." First I was surprised because when reading it sounds sounds so similar to a common racial slur but after investigating not only is the spelling different but it is a harmless word meaning a miser or someone who is stingy.
The adverb form niggardly, miserly or stingily, was formed in the sixteenth century from niggard, a miser or stingy person. In the Wycliffe Bible of 1384 it was spelled nygard; earlier still it can be found as nigon, and another form nig also existed. We are pretty sure this was borrowed from a Scandinavian source, because there are related words in several Germanic languages, for example, the Old Norse hnøgger, meaning “stingy”. So it has nothing to do with nigger, which comes via French nègre from Spanish negro, ultimately from Latin niger, meaning “black”.

Another interesting note: the word is not used today or is rarely used as it is too often mistaken for the "bad word"

The point of this post is that Richardson's word usage is not only different from how we use words today but is in fact somewhat different from how authors used words in the 18th Century as well.
According to Donald Ball in an Article titled "Richardson's Resourceful Wordmaking "Ball states that "a feature of Richardson's language that has not been examined is his wordmaking- his ability to use, to coin, and to develop single words, compound words, and phrases to suit the purposes of the expansive new world of fiction he was creating"(56).
While the article only points to a few words I am planning to keep my eyes open. There is something creative in forming new words, which goes beyond simply "writing,"
so I found this to be a particularly intriguing fact about Richarson's writing.

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