Category: Word origins

Orson-Welles-Show-1941

Where does the phrase ‘know where the bodies are buried’ come from?

It’s probably not too much of a surprise that Orson Welles’s greatest contribution to language comes from his greatest contribution to cinema. Following the rise and fall of fictional newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, Welles’s 1941 film Citizen Kane is regarded by many as one of the greatest films ever made, and it also contains […]

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royal baby

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana: what’s in a royal baby name?

When Prince George of Cambridge was born, the OUP blog took the occasion to examine the history of the names given to baby, mother, and father. With the arrival of the latest addition to the British royal family, we’ve taken a look into the Dictionary of First Names to find out what the names Charlotte Elizabeth Diana mean. Charlotte […]

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fajitas Tex Mex

Tex-Mex terms in English

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines Tex-Mex as ‘a Texan style of cooking using Mexican ingredients and characterized by the adaptation of Mexican dishes, frequently with more moderate use of hot flavourings such as chilli; food cooked in this style.’ It is no secret, however, that plenty of the most common items on the Tex-Mex table are unambiguously […]

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fight of the century

12 boxing metaphors you hear all the time

Although the sport still enjoys a relatively large following today, the huge popularity that boxing had over a century ago is obvious when you look at the impact that the sport has had on the English language. In fact, there are plenty of common boxing terms and situations that you use in a figurative sense […]

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dog

The dog: man’s best friend?

The history of man’s relationship with the domesticated carnivorous mammal Canis familiaris is a long and complex one, and is reflected in the language used across the centuries to describe the dog and its world. The word dog first occurs in Old English, but is less well-attested than the synonymous (and probably more formal and […]

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shoes

Something’s afoot: investigating the names for shoes

Whether you’re a shoe aficionado or somebody who regards footwear as merely something to help avoid standing on nails, you might be interested in the etymological backgrounds to the names of some common varieties of shoe. We’ve taken five of them, and traced their – perhaps surprising – linguistic histories… Clog You probably know that […]

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dragon

Guns, herbs, and sores: inside the dragon’s etymological lair

23 April marks St. George’s Day. While St. George is widely venerated throughout Christian communities, England especially honors him, its patron saint, on this day. Indeed, his cross, red on a white field, flies as England’s flag. St. George, of course, is legendary for the dragon he slew, yet St. George bested the beast in legend alone. From Beowulf to The Game of Thrones, this […]

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chemistry

How did the chemical elements get their names?

Etymologically, chemical elements are in a class of their own. Unlike much of the English language, the names of elements tend to have been chosen by the researchers who first discovered them rather than developing organically over time. There are no rules as to how these names are decided, but the history of chemistry reveals […]

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