I’ve already mentioned that I’m going to send a copy of my photobook PAINT to everyone who’s sponsoring me on Patreon for $5 or more per month. Since I announced that, my number of Patreon sponsors has gone from 16 to 15.
So OK, I have lots of copies of my other books sitting around, already bought and paid for, and so I’m going to send a free copy of your choice of Songs of Love and Grammar, Confessions of a Word Lush, or 12 Gifts for Writers to everyone who is sponsoring me on Patreon for $2 or more per month (and yes, that means that the $5 or more people get PAINT plus one of those books). If you are sponsoring me for at least $2 a month as of January 1, 2021, you will just need to send me your address and tell me which book you want and I will mail it to you.
If you’re sponsoring me for at least $1 a month, I am extremely grateful, and you get a free PDF of PAINT and advance views of some blog posts, but I can’t quite afford to mail you a printed book for free… but I will send you one for the cost of postage if you want; just message me on Patreon.
Maybe next year I’ll have a book in the pipeline that you can buy in an actual physical bookstore… and maybe you’ll even be able to go shopping in one!
Since 2008, I’ve posted more than 2,400 articles for free on Sesquiotica; more than a million visitors have come to read them, and more than 17,500 people have subscribed for free. They include word tasting notes, articles on grammar, serialized fiction, and my new series on coffee joints to sit and work in. I’ve also been making videos such as my pronunciation tips, which you can find here and on YouTube. But why stop at that? Continue reading →
Some readers may have been surprised at the need for a password to view some posts. That’s my fault – I buried the announcement of my premium subscriptions at the end of my post on subscribe. Here’s the tl;dr: I’ve added premium subscriptions, which you can buy on Patreon for as little as $1 a month, and some posts will be subscriber-only as a perk and incentive.
Why? I’ve upgraded the hosting plan for Sesquiotica to get rid of ads and to add extra features (including a shorter URL!), but that costs money. I’m also doing more videos and audio recordings, which take time I could be using on freelance projects that pay. You don’t have to subscribe if you don’t want – you won’t get any less if you don’t, but you’ll get more if you do.
I hope this word tasting doesn’t seem underwritten. No, wait, I hope it does.
Subscribe, as you may know, comes from Latin sub ‘under’ and scribere ‘write’. It meant, originally, writing your name at the bottom of a document, under the rest of the text – you know, adding your signature – to signify agreement. Could be agreement with what it says; we still have that sense figuratively: “I don’t subscribe to that theory.” Could be agreement to do what it specifies – in particular, pay for something; we have that sense too, as in “subscribe to a stock option.” A few hundred years ago, if someone wanted to start a periodical publication, since the internet was not widely available at the time, they generally couldn’t use Kickstarter or Patreon, so they would issue print appeals for people to underwrite them: give me so much money and in return you’ll get so many issues. Nowadays when you subscribe to a magazine, that’s still technically what you’re doing – but you can also subscribe to some things for free, in which case you’re not underwriting them but you still get their writing under your door (or probably in your email inbox).
So subscribe runs the gamut from ‘have no issues with’ to ‘get issues from’. And it can mean ‘underwrite’ or just ‘read over’.
English being the lexical overstuffed pillow that it is, it has two words where nearby languages have one each. We have both underwrite and subscribe; other Western European languages have a word that means one, the other, or both, but always literally means ‘write under’. German has unterschreiben, which means ‘sign’ or ‘endorse’ (endorse, by the way, comes from Old French and Latin meaning ‘on the back’, as in write on the back of, as in what you do with a cheque, or check for Americans). Dutch has ondertekenen, which means ‘write your signature at the bottom of’ but can also mean ‘sign up for’. Italian has sottoscrivere, which means about the same as English subscribe. French has souscrire, which is understood like underwrite but they also use it as we use subscribe (though they have another word for that too, s’abonner) because they have not lost the connection. Spanish has suscribir, likewise.
Along with the Romance/Germanic doublet, though, English has one more thing that the others don’t: anagrams. Well, nearly. Subscribe needs just an extra e to anagram to issue bribe. As in bribe someone to get issues of a publication, or bribe someone with issues of a publication to get their actual money.
I’m tasting this word today as a… well, let’s say an inducement. I’ve switched my blog to a paid plan so it no longer has ads (and I will also, in the fullness of time, add a feature to buy signed copies of my books directly). I’m not going to make people pay for the stuff that’s always been free – my word tasting notes, my occasional articles on linguistics and editing, and my pronunciation tip videos. But as an incentive to get people to underwrite my site, I’m going to add a subscription-only section. All of my “new old word” entries (following on soray) will be for subscribers who put as little as $1 a month on the table – and I’m going to record myself reading my blog posts, for those who prefer to listen (for $2 a month). And there’s more!
Visit https://www.patreon.com/sesquiotic to find out more, or watch this video. (Oh, and if you don’t want to subscribe, that’s fine! I’m not expecting most people to. It’s just an extra perk for those who wish to underwrite my writing.)
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.
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