Tuesday, May 7, 2013

We Spit On Your Wormy Grave, Man!

Stick w/ the classics, avoid faddism: Words w/ long histories. (Could've worked "mother" into the headline as well.)
Most of the words are frequently used ones, such as the pronouns for "I" and "we", and the nouns, "man" and "mother". But the survival of other terms was more baffling. The verb "to spit", and the nouns "bark" and "worm" all had lengthy histories.

"Bark was really important to early people," said Pagel. "They used it as insulation, to start fires, and they made fibres from it. But I couldn't say I expected "to spit" to be there. I have no idea why. I have to throw my hands up."
From the abstract:
Our results suggest a remarkable fidelity in the transmission of some words and give theoretical justification to the search for features of language that might be preserved across wide spans of time and geography.
The WaPo weighs in.

It's all been done. A minimum of twice.
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