Founder of Wordsmith.org and the quintessential A.Word.A.Day email, Indian-American author Anu Garg chats with Bhairavi Jhaveri
Indian-American author and speaker Anu Garg preps up for a discussion at a bookstore. Pic/ Bipin Kokate
As someone who didn't know English till you went to college, how did you fall in love with "words", enough to be deemed one of the biggest bibliophiles today?
I've always loved books, I enjoy reading, and so I began to wonder, where did these words come from? Who made them up? Have they always meant the same thing? As I began to explore these questions, I discovered that each word has a story, a biography, that tells us all paths it took to reach where it
When you incubated the A.Word.A.Day email idea, did you think it would gain so much momentum?
I began the A.Word.A.Day email 15 years ago. It began as a hobby, a way to share my love for words with others. There was no grand plan. Back then, in 1994, I was a post-graduate student of Computer Science in the US. I told my classmates about it. They liked the idea and subscribed to A.Word.A.Day.
I began getting subscription requests from other universities and corporations (at the time there were no Internet access providers you had to be a student at a university or working at a corporation to get the Internet access). Then people from other countries wanted to subscribe to A.Word.A.Day.
People can sense genuine passion. I feel fortunate that I can touch so many people, every day.
You are dubbed "the electronic milkman of literacy" and the term you coined for word-lovers linguaphile made it to the American Heritage Dictionary eight years ago. Do you see a lot of new words being formulated
A language has to continue to grow and evolve to be able to keep up with changing times. It has to fulfil the need of its people or risk being considered obsolete. All living languages change; new words are coined, old words change, and some words even die out. But if a word is needed, we use it, and eventually it becomes a part of our language.
What do you think the SMS age is doing for the English language?
Given the popularity of SMS, some of those habits spill over in non-SMS usage. I'm not sure it'll have a long-lasting effect on general-use language though. Language is a tool of communication, and besides the message that we convey by using the language, we also convey a meta-message by "how" we use the language. So, it's best to avoid overuse of slang in a formal context.
As a word-lover, whose writing do you enjoy?
I love poetry by Rabindranath Tagore, William Wordsworth and Kahlil Gibran.
What does a regular day in the life of Anu Garg back in Seattle look like?
I get up early. By the time I get ready and eat breakfast, the sun has come out. I go with my dog for a two-mile walk. Then, I research words and their origins, shortlist the ones that can be featured in the coming weeks, browse reader mail, read news, take a nap, eat lunch, pull weeds in the garden, and so on.
Anu Garg lives and works in Seattle, USA with wife Stuti, also an author, and their 11 year-old daughter, Ananya, who is already a voracious reader.
Garg's top 4 words
Schadenfreude (SHAAD-n-froi-duh) noun
Meaning: Pleasure derived from others' misfortunes
Mondegreen (MON-di-green) noun
Meaning: A word or phrase resulting from mishearing a word or phrase
Petrichor (PET-ri-kuhr) noun
Meaning: The pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell
Resistentialism (ri-zis-TEN-shul-iz-um) noun
Meaning: The theory that inanimate objects demonstrate hostile behaviour toward us
Anu Garg has authored three bestsellers:
>>The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two
>>A Word a Day
>>Another Word a Day