Friday, March 14, 2008

Greener Grass

I love my tech writing job. It's the best of many worlds for me: low stress, good salary and benefits, the ability to use and expand my knowledge and gain new skills, and the ever-important opportunity to improve and perfect my writing. Plus, I really like the people I work with.

Still, I guess it's just the human condition that the grass always seems greener elsewhere.

Today I stumbled upon the word milquetoast, which I think is probably the second-funniest word in the English language (the funniest, of course, is "poo"). Of course, I can't read an interesting word without settling down for a cozy visit with it, so off I went to bartleby.com, etymonline.com, and the rest.

In the process of learning that milquetoast came from "The Timid Soul," a cartoon strip by H.T. Webster that featured the character Caspar Milquetoast, I learned that milquetoast is an eponym.

Of course, eponym is a wonderful word, even though, along with synonym and acronym, it has a bad case of "ending-in-n" envy (-nym words just seethe with envy for autumn and solemn, you know). Just for fun (and to make sure I was up on the meaning of eponym), I did a search on eponym and came up with a Dr. Wheeler's Web site. Here's the definition he had:

A word that is derived from the proper name of a person or place. For instance, the sandwich gained its name from its inventor, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. The word lynch comes from Captain William Lynch, who led bands of vigilantes to hang hoboes and bums residing near Pittsylvania County. The verb shanghai, meaning to kidnap or press into forced labor, comes from the practices of conscription common in the oriental city of Shanghai. The word stentorian comes from the loud-mouthed Stentor in Greek legend, and herculean comes from the muscle-bound Hercules, and so on.

But it was a while before I found the eponym definition ... I was too busy salivating over elegy, Elizabethan, ellipsis, enjambement, epic simile, epistrophe, and epithalamion.

Yes, salivating. Such a wash of literary terms are a veritable symphony of Pavlovian bell-dings for this cubicle-ensconced technical writer.

Then I read Dr. Wheeler's class study questions, his Curriculum Vitae, and more of his literary vocabulary terms (which are now listed in "My Favorites"), and found that my heart rate has picked up, just a bit. Not because of the esteemed Dr. Wheeler, but because ... oh, how I love literary study! How I love words! How I wish teaching had not been such a masochistic enterprise! (Speaking of eponyms ...)

I'm just really glad the grass here in my tech writing office is pretty green. I'm too tired--and too happy here--to want to change careers again anytime soon.

But ... I did print out an employment application for the local community college. Who knows, maybe they'll need a part-time freshman comp teacher this summer ...

3 comments:

  1. As in most things, Waterfall, eponym comes from antiquity. The Greek verb eponomadzo (forgive my not using a Greek font). Earliest use in Sophocles, but the biggest user after then was...Plato. It figures....

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  2. the tech world overall is great to work in,imo.im in the financial niche and i love my job and the people i work with !

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  3. Oh my... I think I might have drooled just a bit on my keyboard while reading this post. Forgive me, please!

    You're quite right, you know. "Poo" is the funniest word.

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