Tag: etymology

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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Dalmatian

12 dog breed names and their origins

As their breed names often attest, dogs are a truly international bunch. Named for their places of origin and sometimes even their original breeders, breed names offer a fascinating look into how we relate to man’s best friend. Let’s take a look at 12 different breeds and the backstories that their names have to offer. […]

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Elton John David Furnish

Word in the news: boycott

In a recent interview that appeared in the Italian magazine Panorama, fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbara stirred up controversy by voicing their opposition to adoption by gay parents as well as to in vitro fertilization, advocating that ‘the only family is the traditional one’. The comments were quickly picked up by social media, […]

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culprit_large

The curious case of culprit

Amnesia, disguises, and mistaken identities? No, these are not the plot twists of a blockbuster thriller or bestselling page-turner. They are the story of the word culprit.   At first glance, the origin of culprit looks simple enough. Mea culpa, culpable, exculpate, and the more obscure inculpate: these words come from the Latin culpa, “fault” or “blame.” One would suspect that culprit is the same, yet we should never be […]

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Winter scene

Walking in a winter wonderland . . . of words

Where I live in New York State, about two hours north of the Pennsylvania border, the transition from one season to the next is rarely (if ever) coincidental with the astronomical designation applied to it. Of the four annual calendar dates of seasonal shift, none is more laughable to us in the Leatherstocking Region than […]

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