March 25, 2009

Word of the Week—Amanuensis

Posted in Word Fun tagged , , , at 7:32 am by The Word Jar

Welcome to the inaugural “Word of the Week” post! I hope to post a new word each Wednesday, as it follows the alluring alliteration of “Word of the Week.” I’ll post and discuss a word I’ve come across while reading, a word I’ve heard recently, or a word that I’m just enjoying at the time.

Amanuensis. Isn’t that a gem of a word? I came across this delicious nugget while reading The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (a fabulous little book that will be reviewed here soon). I had to post this word because I have never seen it before, have never heard of it before, and had no idea how it was pronounced. I did find the pronunciation in the dictionary, but I know that if I tried to say it, it would sound nothing like it should!

As defined in The Uncommon Reader, amanuensis means “one who writes from dictation; copies manuscripts. A literary assistant.” Webster’s offers a similar definition but leaves off the literary assistant designation. And that’s my favorite part!

I guess I was drawn to this word because when I was in elementary school, I loved copying poems and passages that I liked out of books. Just to have them. To read them again and again whenever I wanted. It wouldn’t have been the same to photocopy them; and that would have been much more expensive.

At the same time, in the book this term refers to a boy who helps the Queen of England by returning her library books and looking up words and quotations. A literary assistant. Very helpful.

Keeping that usage in mind, I can’t decide if I want to be an amanuensis or if I want to have one.

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