His love of language was a gift in itself.
By Bill Hayes
The beloved neurologist and author Oliver Sacks was a man of many enthusiasms — for ferns, cephalopods, motorbikes, minerals, swimming, smoked salmon and Bach, to name a few — but none more so than for words.
When I say he loved words, I don’t simply mean within the context of being a writer of numerous classic books — “Awakenings,” “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” “Musicophilia.” Even if he had never written a single one, I am sure Oliver would still have been that funny fellow who took giant dictionaries to bed for light reading (aided by a magnifying glass). He delighted in etymology, synonyms and antonyms, slang, swear words, palindromes, anatomical terms, neologisms (but objected, in principle, to contractions). He could joyfully parse the difference between homonyms and homophones, not to mention homographs, in dinner table conversation. (He also relished saying those three words — that breathy “H” alliteration — in his distinctive British accent.)
“Every day a word surprises me,” he once commented, beaming, apropos of nothing other thanRead the rest of this post »