The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

31 Jul 2008


Fashions in Words
It always has been and always will be, lawful to produce a word stamped with the current mark. As woods change in leaf as the seasons slide on, and the first leaves fall, so the old generation of words dies out, and the newly born bloom and are strong like young men. We and our works are a debt owed to death. Here a land-locked sea protects fleets from the North wind – a royal achievement; here an old barren marsh were oars were piled feeds neighbouring cities and feels the weight of the plough; here again a river gives up a course that damaged the crops and learns a better way. But whatever they are, all mortal works will die; and still less can the glory and charm of words endure for a long life. Many words which have fallen will be born again, many now in repute will fall if usage decrees: for in her hand is the power and the law and the cannon of speech.


  1. It has always impressed me the validity of many ideas and reflections that have reached us from Greek and Roman writers and philosophers. In this excerpt from Horace’s ‘Epistles to the Pisos’ or ‘Ars poetica’, the author defends the use of new words and establishes a parallelism between language and other living forces such as Nature or people’s lives and works.
    This seems to be an open approach to language, accepting its dynamism and mobility as something necessary in order to find more appropriate words to convey ideas and improve communication.
    Languages change, evolve. It was interesting to follow the evolution of the English language in ‘Historia de la lengua inglesa’ subject this year. It is also curious to realize how words and expressions die, spring up, transform by adopting different usage and meanings… in such a short period as a couple of decades and how, sometimes, we find ourselves uttering words or expressions not ‘in fashion’ and hesitating whether we sound a bit pedantic or outdated.
    Anyway, Horace also defended measure and decorum, this last idea linked to nowadays study field of sociolinguistics.

  2. Reading your commentary on the way “language evolve and words transform by adopting different meanings” it has come to my mind a funny conversation I have had with some friends this weekend talking about language learning and the like.

    A friend of mine when asked for a word to describe his own personality in an English learning class answered “I think I am gay” meaning “creo que soy alegre” and he could not understand when the teacher told him he was 50 years late with that meaning of the word.

    There was an English person in the group and we spent a while talking about languages and we ended up trying to find the different equivalent for some Spanish expressions into English like “ver la paja en el ojo ajeno y no la viga en el propio”. Colin said “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones” but I do not know if that is the exact equivalent.

  3. I didn’t know that expression (“people who live…”) and I’ve been browsing through the Web for a while in order to learn about its usage.

    It seems to have more than one nuance. Thus gives a meaning very close to the Spanish “ver la paja…” by stating ‘One who is open to criticism should not criticize others’ or Wikipedia’s ‘Don't criticize other people when you yourself have faults and weaknesses’, whereas The Phrase Finder shows older instances of use meaning ‘Those who are vulnerable should not attack others’ (
    It can be a further example of language transformation through time.