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Please note: this blog post discusses language that some readers may find offensive. It was in New York that I learned to tell people to fuck off, and I think I’m a better person for it. From what I have seen, New Yorkers are connoisseurs of the word fuck. They use it as an obscenity, […]more
We’ve taken on an ambitious task today: we’re looking at the origin stories behind the names (in English) of every single country in the world – using the list of countries as determined by the UN and information from the Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, discover surprising and intriguing language […]more
Ever since 4 July 1777 when citizens of Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary of American independence with a fireworks display, the “rockets’ red glare” has lent a military tinge to this national holiday. But the explosive aspect of the patriots’ resistance was the incendiary propaganda that they spread across the thirteen colonies. A rhetorical Declaration […]more
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 […]more
The launching of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on 18 September 1947 signaled an American addition to the customary use of the word ‘intelligence’. In the past, as well as referring to mental capacity, the word had carried one of two principal meanings. The first, by 1947 archaic, simply indicated news. The second meaning covered […]more
On September 13th, 1814, an American lawyer named Francis Scott Key dined as a guest on a British warship, where he had been sent to negotiate the release of American prisoners. The ship, the H.M.S. Tonnant, was moored in Chesapeake Bay, off Baltimore, which the British forces intended to attack later that day. Key was […]more
What’s in a nickname? Corruption, initially. Which is not to say that there is anything inherently dishonest about nicknames; the history of the word stems from an error. Originally “an eke-name”, meaning an additional name, “a neke name” formed out of an incorrect word division that blended the noun with its indefinite article. By the […]more