Category: Word origins

How old are the words bride and groom? Learn several interesting facts about wedding words.

6 facts about wedding words

The language of weddings has, unsurprisingly, been around for a long time. Let’s have a look at several interesting facts about wedding words. 1. Brides weren’t always female While the oldest recorded sense of bride is the familiar one referring to a woman, there is some evidence of the word being used in a gender-neutral […]

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surfing

Surf’s up at the OED

The vocabulary of surfing in the English language has a long history. In 1798 Ebenezer Townsend, Jr., the supercargo (a representative of the ship’s owner) on the sealing ship Neptune, sailed into the Hawaiian Islands and recorded in his diary of 30 August, “They [sc. the natives] sometimes make use of surf-boards. The surf-board is […]

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The Hanging Garden

The Hanging Garden – remarks on the use of ancient languages

A fruitful line of research for my book on the Hanging Garden of Babylon was analysis of Babylonian words. They were written in the cuneiform (wedge-shaped) script, which is very different from an alphabet. Most alphabets have about 30 letters, and C, for instance, is always C even if it is pronounced in a variety […]

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Words must advertise: Dorothy L. Sayers in the OED

Words must advertise: Dorothy L. Sayers in the OED

Dorothy L. Sayers, born in 1893, was a detective novelist, Christian writer, Dante translator, a glorious wordsmith, and a true daughter of Oxford, blood and bone: her father was chaplain of Christ Church Cathedral School, and she took first class honours in medieval literature at Somerville in 1915. An American such as myself daring to reflect […]

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Chasing the rainbow connection

Chasing the rainbow connection

Reflect and refract When was the last time you looked out the window and said, “Oh look! There’s a many-coloured refraction of light from drops of water!”? Well – OK, if you said that last week then feel free to skip the next paragraph, but most of us refer to the sudden splash of colours […]

Beam me up, dictionary: Star Trek in the OED

Beam me up, dictionary: Star Trek in the OED

Star Trek is one of the most successful science-fiction franchises of all time: since the original TV series first aired in 1966, there have been four further live-action TV shows (plus an animated series), twelve films, and innumerable books. Only Star Wars and (particularly for the British) Doctor Who have achieved a comparable level of […]

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H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft and the Northern Gothic Tongue

There is a very specific language of Gothic and horror literature that has its roots buried deep in the history of English: doom has been around since Old English; dread carries over from Middle English; eerie, that sense of vague superstitious uneasiness, enters Middle English through Scottish. The adjectives are harsh and guttural: moons are […]

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Woman - or Suffragette?

Woman – or Suffragette?

In 1903, the motto ‘Deeds not Words’ was adopted by Emmeline Pankhurst as the slogan of the new Women’s Social and Political Union. This aimed above all to secure women the vote, but it marked a deliberate departure in the methods to be used. Over fifty years of peaceful campaigning had brought no change to […]

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