David B. Guralnik
WORDS ABOUT WORDS
Those of us who toil in the vineyards of English linguistics and lexicography approach our tasks in a general spirit of sobriety, but we know very well that language does not serve humankind only for communication any more than food serves only for nourishment. The pleasure derived from a well-prepared saltimbocca, that Italian enhancement of veal, is no greater than the joy of discovering that the name for the dish means literally "jump into the mouth." Eons ago, people huddling around a fire in a cave somewhere must have learned that language is, inter alia, for playing with. And so arose puns and comic verse and charades and anagrams and crossword puzzles.
David B. Guralnik, American lexicographer, Foreword to Eugene Maleska, A Pleasure in Words, 1981
Posted on September 6, 1999 at 9:36 AM