Tag: etymology

Video: what is the origin of the word loo?

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golden compass

The language of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Northern Lights (published in the US as The Golden Compass), the first novel in Philip Pullman’s hugely successful His Dark Materials trilogy. In the preface, the author tells us that the story is set in a universe ‘like ours, but different in many ways’. One […]

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Video: what is the origin of the word snob?

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ballot box

The vocabulary of voting… a look at election etymology

As Britain goes to the polls, the thought of millions of people up and down the country shuffling into polling booths, quietly putting a cross on a piece of paper and dropping it into a box can sometimes make me misty-eyed about the age-old simplicity of the democratic ritual. But just as age-old as that process […]

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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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baseball jazz

Jazz: an unlikely, but true, American journey

Two very American institutions are celebrated this month. Besides being Jazz Appreciation Month, April also marks the start of the MLB baseball season, which begins this year on 6 April. While at first glance the only thing that jazz and baseball seem to have in common is that both have been the subjects of Ken Burns […]

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