Category: Word origins

Ethel Franklin Betts Annie illustration

Orphants to foster kids: a century of Annie

One of the best-known musicals of the 20th century is Annie, which tells the story of a plucky orphan girl who warms the hearts of all around her, and eventually finds a loving family of her own. The tale will be carried into the 21st century when the newest film adaptation (produced by Jay-Z and […]

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Gone With the Wind poster

Gone with the Wind‘s “damn” and other vulgar language

Liz: You can’t just take away all these words we’ve been using for the past six years. Kenneth: Oh, that reminds me. You can’t say “using” on TV. It implies drug use. —30 Rock Season 6, Episode 11 On 15 December, 1939, Gone with the Wind premiered at Loew’s Grand Theatre in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. […]

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What are the origins of lord and lady?

Old English might have English right there in the name, but that doesn’t mean that it’s familiar to speakers of English today. The original spellings of some words bear so little resemblance to how they are spelt today that they are all but impossible to recognize. And in transforming their spellings, the origins and the […]

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Give thanks… for Native American loanwords!

Since I’ve only been in the US a year and a half, so far I’ve only experienced one Thanksgiving – but I must say that given it’s a holiday seemingly mainly devoted to eating delicious food and enjoying spending time with family and friends, it’s one I especially enjoy. The atmosphere in the days before the […]

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Video: what is the origin of ‘posh’?

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Salaries, dragons, and musk: rooting around in the spice rack

As the Bard said, “That time of year thou mayst in me behold” a pumpkin-spice latte–or beer, bubble gum, even burgers, such is the market. While we may have reached so-called “peak pumpkin” this year, the autumn season is indeed one of seasonings, of herbs and spices with the special power to evoke that cozy sense of home. From trade […]

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Reuben sandwich

5 tasty sandwich etymologies

You may well be familiar with the origin of the sandwich. The story opens in mid-18th-century England with John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, and a particularly distracting run at the gaming table. In fact, the distraction proved so great that Montagu forewent formal meals and refreshments, and instead requested the simple snack of […]

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crying

Skrike, lachryme, and water-cart: the language of crying

Crying is one of the first things that any of us do in our lives. It tends to happen again at the most important moments in life – whether as a sign of happiness or sadness – and some of us find it’s an involuntary reaction to anything from pieces of music to absorbing stories. […]

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