Category: Word origins

German loanwords in the English language

German loanwords in the English language

Cockroach, lantern, algebra, sabbath – these are only a few of the loanwords that we use in the English language without them striking us as being particularly unusual. Appropriately, ‘loanword’ itself is a loan translation (a so-called calque) of the German Lehnwort (Lehn from leihen = ‘lend’ + Wort = ‘word’). Throughout history, English has […]

Eponymous English: from Benjamins and John Hancocks to boycotts and Draping?

Eponymous English: from Benjamins and John Hancocks to boycotts and Draping?

We all strive to leave a legacy. We remember history’s greats through plaques and monuments, books and movies, songs and works of art. Another (often overlooked) way we pay homage to people of the past is through language. We might name a place, a theorem, or even a disease after the person who first visited […]

Don't forget your pants!

Don’t forget your pants!

Your response to today’s Take Your Pants For A Walk Day, assuming it has even crossed your radar, will probably be determined by your location. Perhaps you have conjured up an image of droves of people with boxer shorts, knickers, or Y-fronts attached to leads? Or maybe instead of underwear, you are seeing chinos, slacks, […]

Interactive etymology quiz

Interactive etymology quiz

How much do you really know about where your vocabulary comes from? Do you know your Latin roots from your Greek ones? How about Japanese from Cantonese? Hebrew from Hawaiian? Test your knowledge in our interactive etymology quiz and find out if you are a student, an amateur or an expert etymologist. Etymologies Quiz Game […]

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Of chanceless innings and textbook shots - the language of cricket and what it says about the game

Of chanceless innings and textbook shots: the language of cricket and what it says about the game

Wickets and dropped catches Cricket absolutely confounds my wife; she simply can’t get to grips with it. I’ve tried my best to explain it to her but I stumble the moment terms like wicket and over get mentioned. Coming home on Sunday evenings and telling her how I’ve played is at best a comedy show […]

Okey-dokey! The story of the birth of OK’s playful grandchild

Okey-dokey! The story of the birth of OK’s playful grandchild

By the early twentieth century, OK was no longer a joke. The letters O and K did not prompt memories of the misspelled oll korrect, nor did they stimulate alternative explanations. In the nineteenth century, OK was recognized as a humorous abbreviation, but in the twentieth, it was understood merely as an arbitrary combination of […]

How Telstar changed history: celebrating 50 years since the launch of the first communication satellite

How Telstar changed history: celebrating 50 years since the launch of the first communication satellite

It is something we take for granted, that we can turn on our television in the morning and watch the news and sport as it unfolds on the other side of the world. From my home here in Oxford, I have watched the Arab Spring, the Chilean mine rescue, the Euro 2012 football, and thousands […]

Mimsy, chortle, and galumph: Alice in Wonderland and the portmanteau

Mimsy, chortle, and galumph: Alice in Wonderland and the portmanteau

Let’s go glamping. Oh, wait, don’t know what I’m talking about? Vogue introduced glamping – a portmanteau of ‘glamorous’ + ‘camping’ that came into use in the mid 2000s – into the high fashion lexicon in October of 2011 with its suggestion to go pitch a tent and sleep in the woods, decked out in […]

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