Category: Word origins


Whatever happened to the Brontosaurus?

When I was about six, my grandfather introduced me to a book which he had been given as a boy. It had a picture of a Triceratops on the front cover, and I read it eagerly as far as the back cover more than once. It was the 1897 edition of Extinct Monsters: a popular […]

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night sky

Pluto and its underworld minions

Early this week the spacecraft New Horizons began its flyby of Pluto, sending a wealth of information to back to Earth about Pluto and its moons. It’s an exciting time for astronomers and those intrigued by the dark dwarf planet. Pluto has special significance not only because it is the only planet in our solar […]

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Video: what is the origin of the word ‘codswallop’?

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Language ‘for the birds’: the origins of ‘jargon’, ‘cant’, and other forms of gobbledygook

Infarction? Heretofore? Problematize? Cathexis? Disrupt? Doctors have their medicalese, lawyers their legalese, scholars their academese. Psychologists can gabble in psychobabble, coders in technobabble. For people outside these professions, all their jargon seems ‘for the birds’ — all too true, if we look to the origin of the word jargon and its common synonyms. Let’s cut through all the jargon, cant, patois, argot, and gobbledygook with a look at the […]

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cathedral cove NZ

How countries in Oceania got their names

The summertime is the perfect time of year to hop on a plane and find yourself in a new and exciting destination for a week or two … or three. When it comes to unique locales, there is no place quite like Oceania, the area encompassing the islands of the Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas. […]

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Video: what is the origin of the term ‘brass monkey’?

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Video: what is the origin of the term ‘UFO’?

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New information on the origin of ‘twerk’ revealed in the OED

Twerking since 1820: an OED antedating

When the word twerk burst into the global vocabulary of English a few years ago with reference to a dance involving thrusting movements of the bottom and hips, most accounts of its origin pointed in the same direction, to the New Orleans ‘bounce’ music scene of the 1990s, and in particular to a 1993 recording […]

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