Thursday, September 06, 2007

Words, words, words

(Hamlet's snide reply to Polonius)

While reading The Confidence Man, I ran across the word "savan". Uncertain as to its meaning and wishing to be a good graduate student, I searched for it on Google to no avail.

Luckily, I spent yesterday afternoon learning about our library's awesome resources as part of the library tour in Intro to Graduate Studies. I learned that we had access to such resources as the MLA Database, the OED (Oxford English Dictionary), as well as some really neat online databases. So I searched the OED for "savan" and discovered:

{dag}sçavant, savan. [Fr.; subst. use of savant adj., orig. pr. pple. (synon. with sachant, now the only form in this use) of savoir to know:{em}popular L. *sap{emac}re = class. L. sap{ebreve}re to be wise: cf. SAPIENT.
The misapprehension of the obs. Fr. spelling savans of the plural has given rise in Eng. to the incorrect form savan.]

A man of learning or science; esp. one professionally engaged in learned or scientific research.

1719 F. HAUKSBEE Phys. Mech. Exper. v. 225 [He] made a Report thereof to the Royal Academy of Sciences of France; and, upon his return home, those Scavans thought it worth their while to re-examine the matter. 1750 CHESTERFIELD Let. to Son 24 May, At will find a cargo of letters, to very different sorts of people, as beaux esprits, sçavants, et belles dames. 1765 H. WALPOLE Let. to G. Montagu 22 Sept., I dined to-day with a dozen savans. 1805 Edin. Rev. VII. 232 On one of these occasions, the savants in waiting were Quintus Icilius and Thiebault. 1848 E. FITZGERALD Lett. (1889) I. 189, I saw Alfred [Tennyson], and the rest of the sçavans. 1864 Chamb. Encycl. s.v. Manzoni, His mother [being] the gifted daughter of the great savan, the Marquis Beccaria. 1874 SIDGWICK Meth. Ethics III. v. 263 How shall we compare..the service of the savant who discovers a new principle with that of the inventor who applies it?
Savan is savant. Got it.

However, the OED is fantastic. And you know what? They have an RSS feed "Word of the Day", which means I'll be prompted to go over the the OED and read the etymology of words, learn new words, and just generally get to revel in the glory of words.

Did I mention that our library is superb? And that I'm a nerd?

1 comment:

Kerry said...

That's fun. I like researching to find the answer. It's rewarding. I used to subscribe to a "Word of the Day" during college. I'm a nerd, too.