Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Learning & Studying

Learning & Studying

Modern American society appears to be ambivalent about learning. We all claim it’s of paramount importance, but oddly, those who excel at it are seldom considered heroes. After looking into the etymologies of these two words, I find myself wondering whether the concept so many of us really admire and aspire to is that of studying more than learning.

To my surprise, the word learn covers only 2/3 of a page of the OED. To be truthful, the entry isn’t fascinating reading. Learn has roots in all the Germanic languages (except for Dutch, for some unknown reason). Ever since it entered English about 900 AD, learn has meant to acquire knowledge. About the most intriguing story learn has to tell us is that back in the 1400s, “I learned him his lesson,” was considered proper English.

The word study, on the other hand, is worthy of some study. It covers nearly three pages of the OED. It’s related to studio, student, & etude. Study comes from Latin through French, and originally referred to zealousness, affection, seeking help, and applying oneself. It made its way into English writings when Chaucer employed it in 1374, and has countless shades of meaning. The verb alone includes, but is not limited to these varied nuances:

-devotion to another’s welfare
-the action of committing to memory
-an employment, occupation or pursuit
-careful observation or examination
-a state of mental perplexity
-a state of reverie or abstraction
-application of mind to the acquisition of learning
-attentive reading
-desire, inclination, pleasure or interest in something

What a world it would be if we all immersed ourselves in study in all its various meanings. Even that state of mental perplexity can be a great thing. When I’m perplexed about something, it often leads me to, well, study it.

Dear followers, what connections do you make with the various meanings of study, or what theories do you have regarding society’s apparent ambivalence regarding this topic?

My thanks go out to this week’s sources,, & the OED.


  1. I never knew that meaning of study that has to do with looking out for another's welfare. So in college when a guy invited me to his room for a "study date", he was just looking out for my welfare? :-)

    There's also "study" the noun. I call the place I work a study, but a lot of people call theirs an "office". I wonder if that means I'm more perplexed than most writers?

    Thanks for the Thursday wisdom!

  2. Gotta love the word study. Love that it is a state of perplexity, reverie and abstraction. Wonderful! Does that mean that students are perplexed, full of reverie and abstract? I would kind of like to think so!

  3. I like to think of "study" as a combination of the following two definitions:
    -a state of mental perplexity
    -a state of reverie or abstraction
    Put them together and what do you get? Bibbidy bobbidy boo.

    No, I actually have a serious answer, which is the combined sense of perplexity and reverie, since in the study of something, I'm usually left with more questions than answers. I've been told by wise persons that this is a good thing, which was even more perplexing as I thought that wisdom meant "having the answers," when it really means knowing the questions.

  4. Hi Christine, Anne & Steve,
    Thanks for popping by. It looks like the perplexing element of the word study has got our collective attention. Anne, I imagine one man's study is another man's studly.