Sunday, 5 September 2010


In the first draft of my book Still On The Sound, I used this sentence:
"I tied up using a very quick – and quick-release – knot with the quaintly autological name of Highwayman’s (or in North America, naturally, Cowboy’s) Hitch.."
Now, 'autological' doesn't appear in either Chambers or the Oxford Dictionary, and I have no idea where I first encountered it, but if you are interested, an autological word is self-referential - it describes itself. It's the opposite of a heterological word- which doesn't, basically.
Thus, "short" is autological; "long" is heterological. "Polysyllabic" is autological; "monosyllabic" isn't.
My eagle-eyed editor at Blackstaff Press picked up on the use of "autological" in the context of my description of the Coyboy's Hitch. I argued the toss rather half-heartedly, but eventually agreed that I was off-target and dropped the word entirely. I'm not sure what the correct word is for a term that describes it's own purpose, but I can see that it was stretching things to call "Cowboy's Hitch" autological.
Ah well. I used it because I liked the word (not the best reason), and have made up for the loss by using "autological" eight times in this post..
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