Tag: etymology

Wonderful word origins

Seasick

Many of us are fascinated by the origins of the words we use. The genealogy of our vocabulary choices is not always obvious – even though English may be a relatively young language, many of its words have been around for over a thousand years, and a word can change its meaning dramatically in far […]

Sobriquets for scholars

Graduation

  Back to school As September begins, campus quads around the world once again teem with bewildered freshmen, a word first used of a university student at Cambridge over 500 years ago. In the half millennium since, the number of terms for university and college students has proliferated like a new student’s Facebook friends, and […]

Newspapers and briefcases: vestigial words in today’s English

Newspapers and briefcases

Read all about it… Recent events in the UK involving the News of the World Sunday newspaper have prompted a great deal of discussion and turmoil regarding what is and is not the proper role of a newspaper in society. In particular, allegations of phone hacking have drawn great scrutiny and, as a result of […]

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Blurring the lines between fiction and reality

Romeo and Juliet

Have you ever been caught in a Catch-22 situation? Do you get the eerie feeling that Big Brother is watching you as you spy yet another CCTV camera filming your every move? Or perhaps you’re grinning like a Cheshire cat having just won another game of hangman on Oxford Dictionaries Online? The English language is […]

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How to write a slang dictionary

Green's Dictionary of Slang

1.      Cancel your appointments ‘Have you ever thought of writing a slang dictionary,’ an editor asked in 1993 and although I had, a decade earlier, and published it, I said only, ‘Yes.’ And had a publisher. The problem, in these globalizing days, is keeping them. There would be four before the book finally appeared. I […]

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Body parts

Skeleton

The etymology of the English language is awash in body parts. We have hundreds of words that have been formed, Frankenstein-like, by taking bits and pieces of the human body. For instance, we have numerous words containing hands in them – chiropractic comes to English from the Greek root kheir (meaning hand), and the Latin word for […]

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