The Word Collector

If you read here often, you know I have an interest in words, and not just spellings and definitions, I like to know the etymology of words, the origins of phrases. What you may not know is that I’ve collected words in notebooks for years.

If I see a word that piques my interest, I jot it down in a notebook. Over the years I’ve collected thousands of words, phrases, quotations and names. Some because of the way they sound, like rendezvous, others because of their definitions, like key-cold. Others, like, ‘I’ll be there with bells on’ because they made no sense until I found the origin of the phrase.

Recently, I started gathering old newspaper databases and searching for instances of words and phrases. Some interesting finds there.

Did you know that in 1976 the phrase ‘tax relief’ was used almost entirely by Republicans? (numbers and instances taken from political columns) 89% of the time the phrase appeared it was uttered by a Republican. Using the same set of newspapers in 2006 shows a 49%-49% split with ‘Other’ using the phrase 2%.

Curiously, in 1976 ‘tax burden’ was the domain of the Dems, accounting for 86% of the instances counted in political columns, the Republicans accounting for 10% and the Independents 4%. Those numbers are almost reversed in 2007 with the Independents accounting for 3%.

Anyway, over the years I’ve collected enough words to put E. Cobham Brewer’s collection to shame. But what to do with a collection of words and phrases, names and quotations? Other than just roll around in a bunch of words I thought enough of to jot down?


  1. I think you should write a book. Not just a book about words, but about words and your life. I’d buy it. I’d even pay full price. Maybe something put together like Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.

    By the way, are you a member of GoodReads? It’s more fun than some of the latest and great Web 2.0 things where you post that you just clipped your toenails, and then all of your friends swoon.

  2. DG

    I’ve thought about writing a book about words, but it would have to be something different than any other book on my shelf. Thanks for the confidence though.

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