In the decade that Mississippi State classics professor Robert E. Wolverton Sr. has released his survey of ugliest and most beautiful words, he has noticed a trend–fewer religious words.
When the survey began, he thought the number of religious words appearing on the survey made sense, since most enrolled at the land-grant university come from Southern small towns where churches typically are centers of great social influence.
With subsequent surveys given every two years, Wolverton said, “There’s much less showing up having to do with a religious life.”
Among other things, he attributes this to changing of the times. With increased use of smart phones and other portable digital communication devices, he predicted more technology related words likely would be found on future lists.
“I’m surprised nobody really got into words that have to do with their Blackberries and their media,” he said. “Nobody mentioned them.”
So, which ones topped the list this year?
For the ugliest words, “moist” placed first with 12 mentions, while “phlegm” was second with 11 mentions. Other ugly words included “hate,” “ooze,” “vomit,” “putrid,” “grotesque,” “mucus,” “puke,” “pus,” “scab,” and “ugly.”
As for the most beautiful words, “love” had the most mentions with 14, while “eloquent” ranked second with 11 mentions. Others included “faith,” “plethora,” “serendipity,” “epiphany,” “lullaby,” “rain,” “beautiful,” “beauty,” “grace,” “Jesus,” “lovely,” “philosophy,” “serene,” and “symphony.”
Wolverton said a curiosity to learn what words MSU students viewed positively and negatively led him to create the survey. In the exercise, he also instructs participants to list a “top three choices” in each category.
Over years of surveying, Wolverton said he’s found that words with Latin origins and those with multiple syllables have high chances of being identified as beautiful. He also noted that more ugly words are one or two syllables, many of which have Germanic origins.
This year’s canvass of 125 students involved 70 women and 55 men. By class, there were 50 seniors, 25 juniors, 15 sophomores, and 35 freshmen.
For the most part, Wolverton permitted the inclusion of any word the participants felt appropriate, although he did prohibit any of George Carlin’s famous “seven dirty words.” He also ruled out “Ole Miss.”
He asked students to make word selections based on their sound, not meaning. Acknowledging an occasional difficulty in following this requirement, he cited the word “mother” as an example where students usually couldn’t separate definition from perceived beauty.
“It’s not really a beautiful sound,” he said. “But, it’s something that everyone has such a high regard for.”
Interesting item from Rome Reports:
… there are some photos at La Repubblica as well …
As long as we’re doing words from the Merriam-Webster folks, this is another very interesting one to sit through, even if the Classical connection is a bit remote:
Nice little item (from the bottom of my mailbox) from the Merriam-Webster folks:
Charlotte Higgins’ series in the Guardian continues:
- Lesson 4: As Socrates found out to his cost, teaching brilliant and ambitious youths can be dangerous
… the previous two installments (in case you need to catch up):
Haven’t had anything from the Classics@ folks at the Center for Hellenic Studies in a while … a couple new First Drafts:
- Emily Schurr, “Recreating the Creation: Reading between the Lines in the Proem of the Iliad,” July 25, 2011
- Christos Strubakos, “Iliadic Lion Similies: Rethinking Heroic Greatness,” July 25, 2011
… and if you aren’t even aware of what Classics@ is, check out the various online issues here …
As often, an item from the BBC which is subtly hyping a television program:
A chance discovery of coins has led to the bigger find of a Roman town, further west than it was previously thought Romans had settled in England.
The town was found under fields a number of miles west of Exeter, Devon.
Nearly 100 Roman coins were initially uncovered there by two amateur archaeological enthusiasts.
It had been thought that fierce resistance from local tribes to Roman culture stopped the Romans from moving so far into the county.
Sam Moorhead, national finds adviser for Iron Age and Roman coins for the PAS at the British Museum, said it was one of the most significant Roman discoveries in the country for many decades.
“It is the beginning of a process that promises to transform our understanding of the Roman invasion and occupation of Devon,” he explained.
After the coins were unearthed by the local men out using metal detectors, Danielle Wootton, the University of Exeter’s liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), which looks after antiquities found by the public, was tasked with investigating further.
After carrying out a geophysical survey last summer, she said she was astonished to find evidence of a huge landscape, including at least 13 round-houses, quarry pits and track-ways covering at least 13 fields, the first of its kind for the county.
“You just don’t find Roman stuff on this scale in Devon,” said Ms Wootton.
She carried out a trial excavation on the site, and has already uncovered evidence of extensive trade with Europe, a road possibly linking to the major settlement at Exeter, and some intriguing structures, as well as many more coins.
“This was a really exciting discovery,” said Ms Wootton. But she said most exciting of all was that her team had stumbled across two burial plots that seem to be located alongside the settlement’s main road.
“It is early days, but this could be the first signs of a Roman cemetery and the first glimpse of the people that lived in this community,” she explained.
Romans in Devon
Not enough excavation has been done yet to date the main occupation phase of the site, but the coins that were found range from slightly before the start of the Roman invasion up until the last in 378AD.
The Romans reached Exeter during the invasion of Britain in AD 50-55, and a legion commanded by Vespasian built a fortress on a spur overlooking the River Exe. This legion stayed for the next 20 years before moving to Wales.
A few years after the army left, Exeter was converted into a bustling Romano-British civilian settlement known as Isca Dumnoniorum with all the usual Roman public buildings, baths and forum.
It was also the principal town for the Dumnonii tribe, a native British tribe who inhabited Devon and Cornwall. It was thought that their resistance to Roman rule and influence, and any form of ‘Romanisation’ stopped the Roman’s settling far into the south west.
For a very long time, it was thought that Exeter was the limit of Roman settlement in Britain in the south west, with the rest being inhabited by local unfriendly tribes.
Some evidence of Roman military occupation has been found in Cornwall and Dartmoor, thought to be protecting supply routes for resources such as tin.
Devon fields Could more settlements be found under fields in Devon in the next few years?
However on this site, more than just the coins are Roman. Pottery and amphora fragments recovered suggest the town embraced trading opportunities in Europe that came with Roman rule, and a fragment of a Roman roof tile has also been found.
Danielle Wootton received some funding from the British Museum, the Roman Research Trust and Devon County Council in June to carry out the trial excavation but said more money was needed as they still had not reached its outer limits.
“We are just at the beginning really, there’s so much to do and so much that we still don’t know about this site.
“I’m hoping that we can turn this into a community excavation for everyone to be involved in, including the metal detectorists,” she explained.
Sam Moorhead said he believed more Roman settlements may be found in the area in the next few years.
There seems to be some secrecy around this site … I think this previous (similarly vague as regards location) coverage: Roman Fort in Cornwall? is the same general area, but I’m not sure. I guess this is what happens in a metal-detectorist world …
Stephen Hodkinson talks about the changing interpretations of various aspects of Spartan society:
- 1707 – birth of Johann Augustus Ernesti