Words from books

October is an important month for book festivals—in Boston, Austin, Madison, Baton Rouge, and of course Frankfurt, Germany, which hosts the world’s oldest book festival. In honor of book festivals,
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October is an important month for book festivals—in Boston, Austin, Madison, Baton Rouge, and of course Frankfurt, Germany, which hosts the world’s oldest book festival. In honor of these book festivals, I want to delve a bit into the way that the language of books expanded the English vocabulary. The earliest books were not books per se, but inscriptions on stone or wood. The term stele, for an upright stone, wooden slab, or clay, is still a very specialized term. Soon, however, clay, wooden tablets, and papyrus scrolls made writing more portable. Fast forward to today, when tablets now refer to computers and we scroll on our computer screens, tablets, and phones. The meaning of both words has been extended to follow changes in reading technology. Clay tablets did not need tables of contents, but papyrus scrolls left us the term syllabus, which comes to us from the Greek word sillybos, a label affixed to a scroll giving its contents. The Romans used the term titilus instead, from. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Linguistics

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