Category: Word origins

blanket

Did Charles Schulz coin the term ‘security blanket’?

Anyone familiar with Charles M. Schulz’s seminal comic strip Peanuts is probably also familiar with Linus Van Pelt and his blue blanket. But even those who have never encountered Linus, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang are probably acquainted with the concept of the ‘security blanket’: a ‘small blanket or other soft fabric […]

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symbols

Signs and symbols: the names of punctuation marks

Chances are that you use them every day – from ‘ to # and ? to . – but where did common punctuation marks get their names? Ampersand The ampersand is the sign &, used to mean ‘and’. The shape of the symbol originated as a ligature for the Latin et (‘and’) – that is, […]

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cocktails

9 drinks named after people

Not unlike certain kinds of food, sometimes people end up being strongly associated with certain drinks, especially cocktails. Usually, the famous are those who end up with their name attached, even if the drink was not their own invention. This is the case with several of the drinks below. However, it seems as though other […]

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sea

English is chock-a-block with invisible nautical terms

Ahoy, me hearties! When I plumbed the hidden depths of the nautical origins of common English words and phrases last year, I dredged up a treasure chest brimful of material, more than enough for the post I was writing at the time. With thoughts of summer holidays uppermost in many of our minds right now, […]

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Dalmatian

12 dog breed names and their origins

As their breed names often attest, dogs are a truly international bunch. Named for their places of origin and sometimes even their original breeders, breed names offer a fascinating look into how we relate to man’s best friend. Let’s take a look at 12 different breeds and the backstories that their names have to offer. […]

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Video: what are the ides of March?

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bookstore beat

The origins of beat and beatnik

Beat was the first term used to describe the artists, writers, and members of the pre-hippie counterculture of the 1950s. The term beat generation was coined by Jack Kerouac in a conversation with writer John Clellon Holmes in 1948. Holmes wrote in his journal on December 10, 1948: ‘Kerouac speaks to Harrington about ‘the beat […]

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legal

Background checks: everyday words with legal records

Absolute privilege, ad hoc, aforementioned, affidavit, arraignment, arbitrage: the language of law can be dense, demanding, and downright intimidating, and these are just a few of the words and phrases that begin with the letter a. For all the difficulties of legalese, a great number of common words have a surprisingly legal record, so to speak. Mayhem Dating back […]

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