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Spellbinding Sentences by Barbara Baig

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Chapter 4

The Word Hoard

The oldest man, a leader of men

answered; he unlocked the wordhoard.

—Kevin Crossley-Holland, Wordhoard

English is a very word-rich language, with more than half a million words in general use. While theoretically all these words are available to every writer at all times, in practice each writer has her own collection of words with which she writes; word choice is one of the main components of individual style or voice. The image I like to use for a writer’s collection of words is the “word hoard.”

This term comes from the earliest days of the English language, when Germanic peoples who became known as Anglo-Saxons were settling in England. The Anglo-Saxons lived originally in an oral culture; so for them, as for all ...

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