I love words. But I’m one of those people who gets upset if you say irregardless. I have no right to, other than to point out that the only difference between regardless and irregardless is that one is correct and one is not, and if you can’t tell the difference, that’s too bad.
One Christmas, my step-dad gave me A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (Eric Partridge, 1983); it is yellow and fading from direct sunlight, thick and angry, and starts something like this:
If he wishes to be in a position to understand words in their fullest implications and subtleties, in their nuances and most delicate modifications, he will do well to study the list of suffixes and then the little less important list of prefixes; lists that are themselves etymological. By the way, the prefixes and suffixes are my own idea; the list of compound-forming elements (this list, too, is etymological), that of an eminent and humane, practical yet imaginative French philologist, the late M. Albert Dauzat. Like his, my list is confined to the learnèd elements: where he omits such elements as are English words recorded in the dictionary itself. My list, however, is more than twice as long as his and, in treatment, much more spacious, for Origins differs considerably from the Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue française. (p. xiii)
I am sorry to be such an ass, but what little I’ve learned from this big book makes me feel like a prince in certain circles, and compensates for other areas in my life where I am inadequate, or loathsome.
Today, I am celebrating the word LEGEND. Get a cup of tea or a large stout, and cozy-up.
Of all the words I’ve come across in this book, LEGEND has the most derivatives. That is to say, the most words come from the word LEGEND.
Consider for starters: legendary, lectern, lection, lesson, lector, lecture, legible, legion, legionary, legume, leguminose, ligneous, lignite, lignose, lignum…collect, collection, collective, collectivism, collectivist, collectivity, collector, coil…
It seems that the notion of LEGEND comes from the Latin legere, “…to gather (esp fruit), hence to collect…ML collector, adopted by E. L. colligere becomes OF coillir, whence ‘to coil,’ to gather together, esp a rope.” (p. 346)
It goes on and on, really…
Diligence, election, elegant, eligible, elite, intellect, intellection, intellectual, intelligent, intelligentsia, intelligible, neglect, neglectful, negligence, predilection, prelect, privilege, sacrilege, select, selection…logic, logical…and I’m leaving lots out, still.
All this to say: some may pooh-pooh legends as tall-tales, synonymous with urban myths. But the truth is, the word LEGEND is the source of so many commonly used English words: from legumes to apologies, analogies, eulogies.
In some ways, it’s a compilation of everything we’ve gathered and collected: knowledge is what we know now. LEGEND is what lives on.
For all the jerks like me who want to protect language from changing, to keep it right, it will change irregardless, as soon as it leaves the lips and carries on the winds.
Note: I went online hunting for more on LEGEND. I didn’t turn up much of anything. Some things are better found in books, with yellow pages and stuffy authors, who did it all in life before search engines.