You’ve probably heard of trainspotters, people who occupy much of their free time watching trains go by and noting which locomotives and cars they’ve spotted. They may even take pictures. The apparent vacuity of this avocation has led to trainspotting becoming also one of the less vulgar terms for wasting time. Well, trainspotter has a kin, one that in its extended sense carries perhaps an even greater sense of slack jaws and vacant eyes. The very origin of this word is thought to be two terms for blank staring: Lincolnshire dialect gawn and gooze. You easily get the sense of gawping and gaping, jaws yawning, ga-ga, as though bamboozled (or just sozzled on booze), a goon, a loser, gone from the world, with an empty head that would ring like a gong if banged. Yet there are those who happily claim the name: those great, intrepid souls who choose freely to while their hours watching locks and yachts and cargo barges, the viewing gallery of a canal. Wave at them as you wend on the water, these riparian kibitzers, these bywater bystanders, the idlers on the towpath.
Be a patron!Support Sesquiotica and get extra premium content and goodies. Starts as low as $1 a month! Find out more and subscribe on Patreon.com
Join 19,416 other subscribers
I am for hireI earn my living as an independent editor, writer, and educator. Find out more and contact me at jamesharbeck.com.
Buy the T-shirt (or coffee mug or hip flask)
Wear it proudly:
I operate on a NEED-TO-KNOW basis. I need to know EVERYTHING.
Buy it at cafepress.ca/sesquiphernalia
12 Gifts for Writers ebook – free download
Buy my books
Buy my books on Lulu.com:
- Confessions of a Word Lush (paperback)
- Confessions of a Word Lush (ebook)
- Songs of Love and Grammar (paperback)
- Songs of Love and Grammar (ebook)
- 12 Gifts for Writers (print edition)
You can also get them on Amazon.com. Please note that I make less than half as much per book if you buy them there, however.
Word Tasting Notes Google groupGet just the word tasting notes daily by email – join the Google Word Tasting Notes group.
- Coffice Space
- from the bookshelf
- language and linguistics
- life, the universe, and everything
- new old words
- Poetry Minute and a Half
- pronunciation tips
- sentence tastings
- The Week
- Word Country
- word pictures
- word portraits
- word reviews
- word sommelier
- word tasting notes
- 366 Days of Words in Science What this is: 1 photo + 1 word x 366 days. 0 rules.
- Affixes: the building blocks of English Michael Quinion’s site based on his book Ologies and Isms.
- Angry Sub-Editor Patrick Neylan, Eeditor of business reports. Permanently angry about the abuse of English, maths and logic. Terms and conditions: by reading this blog you accept that all opinions expressed herein will henceforth be your opinions.
- Arnold Zwicky’s Blog One of the best lingustic minds out there blogging.
- Bag of Anything lies, propaganda, doggerel
- bradshaw of the future Etymological delectations and more
- Cerebral Boinkfest A blog about the arts, books, flora and fauna, vittles, and whatever comes to mind.
- Coffee with Warren My dad’s newspaper column, about wonderful people and things
- Constellations of Words Explore the etymology and symbolism of the constellations
- Corpus of Contemporary American English 385 million words of contemporary American English texts, searchable for finding frequency, collocations, syntactic roles, etc.
- Dialect Blog The accents of English
- Double-Tongued Dictionary A lexicon of fringe English, focusing on slang, jargon, and new words.
- Evopropinquitous A compendium of knowledge gleaned from seemingly endless scholarly pursuits in the wild. (Or: Things I learned as a field biologist.)
- Google Ngram Viewer Graph relative frequency of words over time in Google’s digitized books.
- Ideas Illustrated Survival Skills for the Information Age
- Iva Cheung Editor, indexer, designer, publishing consultant; Tom Fairley Award winner
- James Harbeck My personal site
- Kate Britt Kate Britt, a professional editor
- Language Log Language as it happens – looked at by linguists who know what’s really going on
- lewd_tongue The twitter feed of Ross Ewage, noted vulgarian. A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.
- Logophilius This blog is for anyone who commonly finds beauty, uniqueness, and joy in printed material of every stripe.
- Magical Letter Page A variety of information and views on phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and similar things
- Motivated Grammar Prescriptivism Must Die!
- Ondionline An alternative to the faded Fabers and burnt Nortons.
- OUPBlog The blog of Oxford University Press USA, including lots on words.
- Popular Linguistics Magazine The monthly online magazine that brings language- and linguistics-focused stories and research to the masses.
- Quote Investigator Exploring the origins of quotations
- Sentence first An Irishman’s blog about the English language
- Sesquiotic on flickr My flickr site for my photos
- Speech Accent Archive The speech accent archive uniformly presents a large set of speech samples from a variety of language backgrounds.
- Strong Language A sweary blog about swearing, by me, Stan Carey, and a number of noteworthy others
- Ten minutes past deadline Sub-editing when the clock’s run out but the copy hasn’t. By Ed Latham.
- The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows A wistful, mournful, fanciful lexicon.
- The Economist "Johnson" language blog In this blog, named for the dictionary-maker Samuel Johnson, correspondents write about the effects that the use (and sometimes abuse) of language have on politics, society and culture around the world
- The Etyman™ Language Blog Adventures in Etymology and Language
- The Ideophone Sounding out ideas on African languages, sound symbolism, and expressivity
- The Language of Food Essays on the language of food by Dan Jurafsky.
- The Lexicographer's Rules The personal weblog of Grant Barrett, editor of the Double-Tongued Dictionary, a collection of words from the fringes of English.
- The Nasty Guide to Nice Writing A pervert and an uptight food freak, still stuck on their nasty divorce, give fresh and clear insight on grammar and writing.
- The Phrase Finder Origins of phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions.
- The Stroppy Editor Minding other people’s language. A lot.
- The Word Blog A blog about words in their natural habitat.
- TV Tropes The place to look for current pop culture references.
- word nerd The blog of language columnist Howard Richler.
- Word Spy The word lover’s guide to new words.
- wordcount.org A ranking by frequency of 86,800 words of British English.
- Wordorigins.org A good site about the origins of words and phrases
- wordsmith.org Home of A.Word.A.Day and more.
- Wordsmoker because words are highly addictive too
- World Wide Words An excellent place to look for reliable information on the origins and uses of words and phrases.
- You Don't Say Veteran drudge John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.
- You Don't Say John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls “the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing,” writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty.