Category: Word origins

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 […]

Red, White, and Blue: the international origins of our favorite Independence Day words

Red, White, and Blue: the international origins of our favorite Independence Day words

Today, many millions of citizens of the United States will engage in a number of rituals all centered on the marking of a historic event that occurred almost two hundred and fifty years ago – namely, the ratification by the Second Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence (not the voting that passed that document, […]

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Surprising word stories: Mr Punch, Dr Murray, and the first tonk

Surprising word stories: Mr Punch, Dr Murray, and the first tonk

Many sports fans will be familiar with the verb tonk, which is widely used to describe the action of giving a ball a good firm hit. Less familiar, but common enough, is the noun tonk describing the same action. Both are of course in the Oxford English Dictionary, with histories traced back to the early […]

Hold on to your tin foil hat: the origin of the UFO

Hold on to your tin foil hat: the origin of the UFO

2 July is World UFO Day, a chance for us all to think about UFO sightings, and, for this blog, to take a journey from clay pigeons to the mysterious habits of abbreviations. Is this a saucer I see before me? On 24 June 1947 Kenneth Arnold, an American businessman, was flying towards Mount Rainier […]

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