Thursday, March 19, 2015

Word of the Day: sprachgefühl

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is sprachgefühl :

1: the character of a language

2 : an intuitive sense of what is linguistically appropriate
M-W explains:
Sprachgefühl was borrowed into English from German at the end of the 19th century and combines two German nouns, Sprache, meaning “language, speech,” and Gefühl, meaning “feeling.” (Nouns are capitalized in German, and you'll occasionally see sprachgefühl capitalized in English too . . . .) We’re quite certain that the quality of sprachgefühl is common among our readers, but the word itself is rare, making only occasional appearances in our language.
It’s surprising that this commentary on sprachgefühl makes no mention of David Foster Wallace, whose essay “Authority and American Usage” mentions the word in its gloss of SNOOT, the Wallace family acronym for a usage fanatic: “Sprachgefühl Necessitates Our Ongoing Tendance” or “Syntax Nudniks Of Our Time.”

Then again, it might not be surprising that Wallace is missing from this commentary: he was a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. Dictionary politics could be at work.

A related post
See Bryan Garner and David Foster Wallace (More on SNOOT)

[Merriam-Webster, why do you make it difficult to share the Word of the Day in the old-fashioned way? I had to go to Twitter to get a link to today’s word.]

comments: 3

Fresca said...

Hm. Sprachgefuhlly, I register "borrowed into" as wrong, or at least weird...

Is it the traditional way of saying non-English words entered the English language?

Michael Leddy said...

I’m not sure how traditional it is, but it’s usual. The American Heritage Dictionary has a concise definition from linguistics: “To adopt words from one language for use in another.” From the OED website: “very few words were were borrowed into English from Celtic.” Google Books has lots of results for borrowed into english. There’s nothing though for borrow into in the AHD or OED or Webster’s Third.

Fresca said...

I guess it sounds weird to me because it just isn't everyday usage--like, "I borrowed your lawn mower into my garage." :)