Monday, 20 June 2016

An aperçu and a coincidence

For years I have had a snobbish distaste for the word comradery. I assumed it was just an uncouth anglicization of cameraderie, with the first vowel 'corrected' to that of comrade.  I was about to inveigh about this assumed vulgarism, but thankfully did a spot of research before putting finger to keyboard.

It seems that both words exist.  Not all dictionaries recognize both, but the Collins does; and has corrected the mistake I deprecated some time ago (in this blog somewhere I can't trace) by making its word frequency feature more visible; it used to be right down at the bottom of the page; it is now more central, both vertically and horizontally.

 But the two words do not have the same popularity, although both first appeared late in the 19th century. A few years after a World War (14 years after WWI and 8 after WWII), comradery has a spike:
spikettes (spikelets? stilettos?)
 in 1932 and 1953
The Collins frequency graph isn't documented (as far as I can see), although perhaps (I hope) this is work-in-progress, as a part of the raising of the graph's profile; so I've no idea what a frequency of 0.1 means (which is what it says on mouseover as I regret they say); but I assume it's a good deal less than the 0.44 racked up by camaraderie at its height:

My "coincidence" also comes from this frequency graph, but it was instigated by a recent Radio 4 programme about The Dream of Gerontius.  It started (in the first 30 seconds) with a quotation from Elgar, presumably from a letter (the radio presenter just said "writing to his friend..."). He used the word illimitable  – not a word that springs regularly to the lips today. I expect Conrad used it, but I admit I wasn't sure when I heard the Elgar quotation whether he was coining it himself to do justice to the Malvern Hills (the context was "that illimitable horizon"). Collins shows this frequency graph:

The plateau throughout the second half of the 19th century and the first third of the 20th century happens to coincide neatly with Elgar's life (1857 1934). Of course I'm not suggesting that Elgar was the sole or main user of the word, but the coincidence is, I think, quite neat (and, coincidentally, it gives a particularly limpid example of the etymology of the word co-incidence).

Must go and do some prep for the forthcoming tour of my choir.

PS A couple of clues:

Hear me out:  it's WAGs' quarters (6)
Endless flak about spies – you've got a nerve!   (7)

Update 2016.09.09.14:50 – Time's up: HAREEM and SCIATIC

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