English 10: Writing Portfolio
Catholic Memorial High School
|How often do you use the word
“word” when you’re talking? Or how often to you write about a pen
with a pen? Likewise, “paper” has been found on paper more often than one would think, and for a
great length of time. Today, people would perceive the word “paper” to mean a number of different
things, from the sheets one writes on in a notebook to legal documents. Over time, “paper” has
undergone many changes in definition, most of which are still valid and are being used today.
According the Oxford English Dictionary, all the common perceptions of the word are true, but some
may not be found in the regular old Webster’s Dictionary. The truth of the word “paper” is that it
is one of the oldest words. It was born back in Ancient Egypt as “papyrus”, and since has spread
into many languages and has made new meanings for itself. It has been used in writing in several
languages since the 13th century, and had existed long before then. “Paper” is a great reflection
of the history of English, considering that it is a significant one of eight thousand words and that
we can attribute all our history of the English language to paper.
After surveying five people of different age groups and different sexes, I found a few interesting
things. None of the five had the same perception of the word “paper.” One claimed that paper was
“something to write on,” which was the response I suspected to most often hear. However, I also got
additional responses. A young adult male affiliated “paper” with the wasting of trees. An adult
woman thought of printing paper. I interpreted this affiliation with that fact that she works with
that type of paper the most. A male teenager’s first thought was legal papers or documents. In
addition, an adult male’s first response was the newspapers. These varied reactions to the word
show that it is very specialized and evolved. It also shows that a large amount of the definitions
are still very alive and thriving. Additionally, people seemed to respond quicker to the types of
“paper” that they were involved with. For example, someone working in Boston who sees a lot of
people reading the paper will more likely think of “newspaper” first. On the other hand, one who
does a lot of printing will think of printer paper. Others who are more concerned with the
environment will think of trees and wasting of paper. However, mostly every person would understand
all these different definitions. “Paper” is a well-known word whose definitions can be ordered
differently from person to person based on the person’s everyday life.
After speaking with two foreign language speakers, I determined that a great majority
of those who are learning or have learned English have not had great difficulty in learning the word
“paper.” To them, the concepts of the word were much the same in their own language, ranging from
printing paper to legal documents. Even the word itself was simple to learn and even sounded
related to the word “papel,” which is Spanish for “paper.” When asking one of the native speakers,
they claimed “I had no trouble learning the word ‘paper.’ It sounded similar in Spanish and had
similar meaning.” This shows that this is a widely understood word, and that in at least romance
languages, the word sounds similar. This shows “paper’s” tremendous chance at being developed into
an internationally understood word.
The Oxford English Dictionary reports many diverse definitions for the word “paper.” One
expression, “on paper,” which means “in theory or in principle, rather than in practice or reality,”
can also be expressed as “upon paper.” Before its extinction, “in paper” meant the same thing.
Another definition, “notice fastened on the back of a criminal undergoing punishment, specifying his
or her offence,” is now a dead meaning of the word “paper.” It has also been used as theater slang,
meaning “free tickets or passes to a theatrical performance,” which is likely unfamiliar to people
of our time who do not watch many plays. These definitions are interesting because they do not
necessarily seem like the everyday uses of the word that we think of.
The word “paper” has been used by many authors throughout the years. One very famous literary
figure, Chaucer, used the word in his work Troilus & Criseyde in 1597; “Youre lettres ful, the
papir al ypleynted, Conceyved hath myn hertes pietee.” Shakespear used the word in Loves Labours
Lost (IV. iii. 45) in the sentence “Why he comes in like a periure, wearing papers.” The meaning of
the word in this case is an obselete one, meaning a notice fastened on the back of a criminal
undergoing punishment. Dickens, an accomplished Brittish author, used a compound version of the
word in Oliver Twist (III. xlvi. 197); “Through costly-coloured glass and *paper-mended window,
through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.” These are just a sample of
authors who have used the word. A myriad of writers of literature from diverse time periods have
used the word in famous works and in different contexts.
A glance at any newspaper, novel, and even short stories and poems will likely reveal a use of the
word “paper.” It can be found being used creatively in a compound word to add vivid descriptions,
as well as to refer to what we generally perceive “paper” as. The London Times for example, has
articles on paper companies and important documents, as well as other uses of the word. However,
these appearances generally are not anything particularly new. Even in the case that the word is
newly used, its new use usually has a logical meaning and can easily be interpreted. For example,
in a London Times article, Will Pavia wrote “The pictures ‘leapt off the screen’ when they were
wired through from Paris, Kenneth Lennox, who was then the paper’s picture editor, said. ‘The first
photo I opened up was of Diana sitting in the back seat . . . She has a trickle of blood on her
face.’” This example uses “paper” to refer to a newspaper. In another article, David Brown wrote
“Stephen James, a partner in R G C Jenkins & Co, the London-based intellectual-property firm
that lodged the application, said: ‘I have spent the past ten years trying to get Tarzan’s yell
trademarked but the difficulty has been putting a sound down on paper.’” In this case, the phrase
“down on paper” means to have something written down and recorded. These examples show how the word
is used to mean different things, but all things that have existed for awhile.
English has been around for some of the most important events in history, and have thrived through
those times. Since then it has been a dominant language, and it’s learned by many countries around
the globe. Based on the language’s current success and power, it is quite clear that extinction is
nowhere near in English’s future. Furthermore, the word “paper” is very likely to remain an active
part of the language until its ultimate death. It is an old, but rich word and simple and adept.
There are many difference definitions and conceptions of it, mostly all of which make logical sense.
In addition, it is likely to evolve throughout the years are culture and life change. The chances
of the survival of the word “paper,” are just as good as the chances of survival of our language;
and those chances are great.
Dear William Shakespeare,
The word “ski,” according to the Oxford English
Dictionary, was first used in English writing in
In conclusion, British literature throughout its
history has relied on the five themes of form,