A guide to moustache names

A guide to words for moustaches

As November begins, many a man’s thoughts turn to facial hair. Millions all over the world consign the razor blades to the bathroom cupboard and attempt to grow a moustache for a very good cause. But moustaches come in many varieties, so whether you are barely capable of bumfluff or have designs on the soup-strainer, […]

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Keep_left

‘Left’: a reliable U.S. political term

The word ‘left’ has invited learned commentary, not least in Anatoly Liberman’s blog ‘The Sinister Influence of the Left Hand’. As Liberman shows, by reputation the word suffers in comparison with the ‘dexterous’ word ‘right’. Origin of the term ‘left’ Those on the political right are happy with this, and contribute to the process. The […]

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There are medical terms for even common ailments.

10 medical terms for common ailments

As anyone who has taken an anatomy class or tried to read a prescription may attest, it can be difficult to interpret those long, Greek- and Latin-based medical words! However, sometimes these complicated-sounding words hide a simple meaning. So, while we could sit here and define rare terms like latissimus and pharmacopoeia, it seems more interesting […]

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translation

Of Cabbages and Kings: five ways to talk about translation

Translation has been a crucial part of Anglophone culture from its very beginnings. The earliest English writers knew that the state of learning in England, with knowledge of Latin far from universal, meant a need for translations. Everything necessary for a rounded education was written in Latin, and so King Alfred the Great introduced a […]

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baking

The winner bakes it all: the language of the Great British Bake Off

In 2010, when I started watching a BBC2 programme about baking sponge cakes, I assumed it would be one of the many things which marked me out as a social pariah, along with talking to cats and preferring books to people. Yet this evening the fourth series of the Great British Bake Off is coming […]

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Russian

‘You speak Russian?!’

If you want to impress your friends, family, colleagues, and almost every English speaker you’ll ever meet, learn Russian. Russian – so I’m told – is hard. It is the language of spies, code-breakers, and Communists, and the preserve of Oxbridge intellectuals. Winston Churchill famously called Russia ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an […]

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Apple etymology involves German and French.

The etymology of apple

The below is excerpted from The Diner’s Dictionary. The apple was probably the earliest of all fruits to be cultivated by human beings. Its wild ancestor was a sharp, mouth-puckering little thing, like today’s crab apple, and this abel-, as our Indo-European ancestors called it, no doubt needed sweetening with honey. But as it spread through […]

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The language of Prohibition-era gangsters: knowing your goons from your gumshoes

model t

Although this blog has already covered a number of the interesting words and phrases associated with the speakeasies of 1920’s and early 1930’s America, the period still has a number of gems. As today marks the anniversary of the conviction of notorious Chicago-based gangster Al ‘Scarface’ Capone, what better reason to revisit some of the […]

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