My latest acquisition from the Mountain View library is Conway and Guy's The Book of Numbers. So far, it's been an interesting read. It actually gave me part of the answer to something I'd wondered about from my French studies. The French express the number 80 as the compound word "quatre-vingt" (literally, four twenties). However, some other French-speaking nations have individual words for 80. I probably should have associated it with the (Middle) English "four score," although I thought most Romance languages were derived from Latin. Italian, Portuguese, Spanish (other Romance languages) don't have a compound word for 80. The Welsh word for 80 is "pedwar ugain," which translates to "four twenties," in the same way as the French and (Middle) English.
Investigating the root of words reminds me of something I used to do when I was very young. We had big unabridged dictionary on the wall unit that I used to spend a lot of time with just looking up words and where they came from. (My mother's parents had one also as I recall.) It wasn't something I had to do for any particular reason ... I was just curious, and it was a way to pass the time.
And now, for a little rant (not really part of the meme; this has just been on my mind lately) ... I've noticed that the quality of spelling has gone down quite a bit over the last twenty years or so. While some of this can be attributed to typing errors, there still has been a decline. But I wonder if spelling is really worth spending a lot of time on in the modern world. I've seen misspellings that would sound correct phonetically, and these people seem to be able to make themselves understood. (Moreover, some of these folks have outstanding academic stats.)
I was a pretty good speller when I was young. Not bragging (because I don't think this is much of a big deal any more) ... I once nearly beat an eighth grader in a spelling bee when I was in the fifth grade. I placed second in my school district, and was the alternate in the city-wide spelling bee. (I still remember the trip my fifth grade class took to cheer on the eighth grader, who was surprised that she had a section of the audience in her corner because no group from her school came to cheer her on.)
So why the rant? I wonder if becoming a good speller was really worth it. I could remember the words from books (and dictionaries), but couldn't always remember what they meant. More to the point, I wonder if it might have been more beneficial to learn something more useful in the modern era, such as how to swap two values without using a temporary variable, or some other problem-solving oriented things.