Meanings: “Literary” and “Illiteracy”

April 18, 2012

“Literary” has its origins in the Latin word for letter.  “Illiteracy” has related roots: to be illiterate means to be ignorant of letters.  Sometimes “literary” has a decidedly highbrow connotation, and “illiteracy” suggests a lowbrow.

Still, not all the advantage goes to the highbrow literary types, as this exchange testifies, between a New York Lawyer, insisting on the legal rights of the Literary Digest, and Will Rogers responding for his Illiterate Digest.

It’s odd, isn’t it, that we use “digest” both for the process of incorporating food into our body and assembling a compilation of materials to be read.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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