At the Wording Desk

Bill Casselman

A website that increases your English vocabulary the smart way, not with multiple-choice questions and cartoons, but by teaching you WHY words mean what they mean.

                        Why Another Word Site?

This wordlore site consists of short columns (about 1,000 words each). The titles are listed on the left. Just click on a title that appeals to you or, as I hope, click the links to each little essay and enjoy them all.

What is my aim in writing these short, etymological essays about language? I want to show how Latin, Greek, French and other languages have added words you should know to the mighty hoard of English and how to increase your vocabulary the smart way, not by multiple-choice questions, but by knowing the origins of words, knowing why words mean what they mean. And I have tried to do it in high style and with some humor.

Did you know that learning new words raises your I.Q.

Is that a mere promo sentence made up by some sleazy author trying to flog his website and his new word books? No. It’s a clinical fact of neurology.

Learning long, hard words makes you smarter. Whether you are a student in school, an adult or a grandparent, every scientific study of actively increased vocabulary points to mental benefits, no matter the age of the new-word learner. Acquiring new language skills actually increases the weight of your brain matter. Synapses needed to connect nerve cells together, axons, dendrites, the actual bulk weight of all neurotransmitters, they all increase. Neurologists call this increment of one’s cognitive reserve.

Students get better marks the more words they know. Grannies stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s by learning new terms. Proven in tests! Can getting new vocabulary cure senile dementia? Of course not. But it can stave off the onset of drooling, gibbering senility. Psychologists tested women in homes for the elderly who did one crossword puzzle a day, as opposed to those who sat staring in armchairs. All puzzle-solvers scored higher on awareness, self-possession and intelligence than all chair-sitters.

Are you still in the work force or starting your business career? Top executives have better communication skills than workers at the bottom of the pay scale. To reach the summit in any field, one usually must learn many Englishes. You may retain how you learned to speak at home (called your idiolect or dialect). But, to be of maximum use to your company, you must understand and use easily the private scientific vocabulary used in the sciences that form the basis of your company’s manufacturing or business procedures. You must also learn SE, Standard English.

That’s three Englishes for most of us. Each one of those Englishes relies on new words, new relevant vocabulary. The more words you know, the higher your potential intelligence. Nincompoops are correctly called dummies, because they can’t talk effectively. No vocabulary! Nincompoop probably derives from an old Latin phrase for someone who was insane, who was non compos mentis Latin, literally ‘not sound of mind.’

No matter what the monosyllabic, illiterate, sneering baboons grunt, no matter that some goofy doofus mocks your superior hoard of words, all those who increase their vocabulary increase their salaries, their status, and their position in life. That’s all any word-seeker has to know.

Why so many Latin roots of English words? Because possibly 80% of all English derives from Latin, not just the technical vocabulary of science but ordinary English derived from French for the last thousand years. Most of the French words now thoroughly at home in English, like, say, poise came originally from Latin. The French language came from Latin. That’s why French is called a Romance language, a Roman’s language. So too in a slightly different way, is English a Roman’s language.

Start learning elite English. It’s fun. My amusing web pieces consist of one thousand words each, approximately. Each can be read in several minutes.

One of the aspects of our English language I most cherish is unfathomableness, in its prime meaning of ‘not being able to reach the bottom.’ One can never sound the sea floor of the study of English words. There are millions of them. Nobody can plumb the sweet abyss of etymology. Let down into the verbal waters the heaviest lead sinkers you have. Never will they fathom Lake Word. All the merrier reason therefore that I lay out upon the table of the wording room rare and startling forms for your delectation.

In each little nugget of word study I try to select one word not merely rare, but a choice vocable that is in fact le mot recherché, a term uncommon to the point of pretentiousness. Email response reveals that readers of my work want to expand their vocabularies. So why else am I here, if not to foist upon innocent readers the most obscure word-mosses scraped from oblivion's grotto?

With that modest caution then, I invite my website and book readers to press onward, toward the broad, sunlit uplands of enlightenment, where new words dwell.

                                                                          -Bill Casselman



At the Wording Desk

If you have arrived at this site and can’t find a specific column to which there was a link, you ought to know that this site now contains all new wordlore pieces for 2018 only. Previous columns from the last few years are now collected in two of my books, self-published through Trafford Books and widely available online from booksellers like

Each volume contains about 100,000 words in about 90 short chapters, taken from contents of this website.

The first book published in 2016 is At the Wording Desk. A new paperback costs $26.61 USD. Used copies are available from around 13.00 USD. The book’s international identification numbers are:
ISBN-13: 978-1490772158
ISBN-10: 1490772154

Either of those International Standard Book Numbers works when ordering.

By clicking the link given below, you can read a free sample of the first 30 pages of the book.


Word Stash
My second book containing about 100,000 words in 97 short chapters of 474 pages is called Word Stash, published in October, 2018. Most of the recent columns from this website (now only available in the Word Stash book) are in this volume.

Word Stash is widely available online from amazon ($23.95 USD) or from Trafford Publishing. Its International Standard Book Numbers are:

ISBN-10: 1490784926
ISBN-13: 978-1490784922

By clicking on the link below, you can read a free sample of the first 30 pages of my second self-published Trafford book.