Category: Word origins

mountain names

How did mountains get their names?

In August 2015, President Obama announced that North America’s highest mountain, Mount McKinley, would be renamed. Its new moniker, Denali, was actually its original Aleut name, meaning ‘the high one’. The previous name, on the other hand, only dates back to 1896 – the year when it was named in honour of William McKinley (1843–1901), who was […]

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black friday shopping

The origin of Black Friday and other Black Days

Across the US, those who are not too replete with their Thanksgiving feast will be braving the crowds in order to secure themselves one of the bargains associated with Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving which is often regarded as the first day of Christmas shopping in the US. Even on the Thanksgiving-less shores of […]

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Thanksgiving sides

The many ‘sides’ of Thanksgiving… and the English language

We may talk a lot of turkey during the holiday, but US Thanksgiving is really all about the sides. Yes, we pile our plates with mashed potatoes and green beans, but we also feast on the many other great sides the English language has to offer. From all sides During the holiday, both sides of a family may gather together out in a relative’s home in […]

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play to the gallery

11 popular expressions explained

Why do we bury the hatchet? The phrase, meaning to end an argument or conflict, refers back to a Native American custom in the seventeenth century whereby a hatchet or tomahawk would be buried in the ground to signal the laying down of arms and the declaration of peace between warring groups. Why do we […]

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Four men playing poker.

A Five-star, Four-flusher of a Word for BSers

I’ve been drowning in bullshit, but in a good way. In my new book Bullshit: A Lexicon, I discuss common (malarkey, mumbo jumbo) and rare terms (flubdub, meadow mayonnaise) for BS and BSers. When people hear I’ve been spending my time on such a mature, humanitarian endeavor, they often ask what’s my favorite BS word. […]

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An illustration of Cerberus by William Blake.

31 fearsome monsters from around the world

Sometimes it seems like the only monsters we talk about nowadays are vampires, zombies, and werewolves. We here at OxfordDictionaries.com thought that was a shame, so we did some digging and pulled together this grand list of monsters to terrify and amuse you (and maybe even provide some of you with last-minute costume ideas!). 1. […]

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three dogs

8 great band name origins

One thing that rock bands are known for are their creative names. There’s the legendary name of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, named for Florida high school gym teacher Leonard Skinner who taught several of the band’s members, and who was remembered for enforcing the high school’s rule about no long hair on men. There’s […]

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The origins of four NBA teams: the Knicks, the Mavericks, the Jazz, and the Raptors.

4 weird origins of NBA team names

Some of the team names in the National Basketball League (NBA) are fairly straightforward about their origins. It doesn’t take a team historian, for instance, to explain why the team in Phoenix – a city known for its hot desert climate – is called the Suns, or why the team in Orlando – famously the […]

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