Tag: etymology

farm pigs

Pig, dog, hog, and other etymologies from the farm

Old MacDonald had a farm. And on that farm he had a dog. And a frog, hog, pig, and stag. Old MacDonald even had an earwig. Dog, earwig, frog, hog, pig, and stag – as well as the more obscure haysugge (‘hedge-sparrow’) and teg (‘yearling sheep’) – form a curious set of words in the English language. You’ve probably already noticed some features they have in common: they refer to […]

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Where does the expression ‘currying favour’ come from?

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German Compound Words

Words with a perspective: German compound words

A few years ago, it was reported that German had ‘lost’ its longest word – the 63-letter monstrosity Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungs- aufgabenübertragungsgesetz. The cause of this ‘loss’ was a law change in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: in 2013, the ‘beef labelling supervision duties delegation law’, as is the term’s literal English translation, was officially repealed, thus rendering its name […]

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Video: what is the origin of the word ‘penguin’?

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double consonants

Double trouble (or accommodating doubled consonants in English)

The presence of doubled consonants in certain words can present a great challenge for students attempting to get to grips with English spelling. The sound of a word will often give an idea of whether a single letter or a double is required, but it is quite possible for two words to sound alike and […]

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Video: what is the origin of the word ‘hazard’?

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fedora

Adore the fedora: what links an item of men’s headwear and a glamorous fin-de-siècle French actress?

Most sources agree that the fedora, the familiar soft felt hat with a curled brim and a creased crown, sported by heroes and antiheros alike in period TV and film drama—including Indiana Jones and Don Draper of Mad Men —is named after the eponymous heroine of the 1882 play Fédora, by Victorien Sardou, played in […]

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Where is the etymology of our curse words?

Curse words, etymology, and the history of English

Have you ever noticed that many of our swear words sound very much like German ones and not at all like French ones? From vulgar words for body parts (a German Arsch is easy to identify, but not so the French cul), to scatological and sexual verbs (doubtless you can spot what scheissen and ficken […]

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