I love words. When I was in college one of my favorite procrastination methods was to grab a random volume of the OED off the shelf and flip through it, following each word back in time from its current meaning to its etymology and first appearance in print (a magical feat of research that still amazes me).
Several years back I stumbled across Anu Garg’s Wordsmith.org and have been a devoted subscriber to his daily A.Word.A.Day (AWAD) email newsletter ever since. Not only does he deliver great daily word selections (typically built around quirky weekly themes), he also cites a recent media reference that places the word in the context of current usage. Finally, each email includes an historical quotation that pertains – sometimes directly, more often obliquely – to the current political or cultural situation (U.S. politics and the Iraq war are frequent themes). Here’s a particular favorite that caught my eye when I was trying to teach myself finish carpentry:
“A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.” – Louis Nizer, lawyer (1902-1994)
I’ve tried several other “word a day” services over the years but none ever lasted more than a few weeks due to the painful obviousness of the words they chose to feature. If you’re a word geek looking for a daily fix, Wordsmith is the gold standard.