Tag: etymology

chocolate meaning

The meaning of ‘chocolate’ and other chocolate facts

You’re probably familiar with the many modern forms of choclate, but where did chocolate itself come from? Let’s have a look at that fact and others relating to the word ‘chocolate’, and how our favourite treat has contributed to the English language. 1. The meaning of ‘chocolate’ The English word ‘chocolate’ comes ultimately from the Nahuatl word chocolatl, […]

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Language of cooking

The language of cooking: from ‘Forme of Cury’ to ‘Pukka Tucker’

The earliest surviving English-language recipes came from the kitchens of kings and their great nobles. Richard II’s Master Cooks boasted that their Forme of Cury contained only the ‘best and royallest viand of all Christian Kings’, and, what’s more, had been approved by the king’s physicians and philosophers. Healthy eating issues and celebrity endorsements are […]

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union jack

Jack and the Flagpole: what do you call the British national flag?

Travelling around Britain, as I’ve been doing this week, I have been struck, as anyone would be, by the profusion of national flags. Not only are they to be found draped on cars and pinned in bedroom windows this year, the British flag is also being displayed on civic flagpoles, high-street lamp-posts, and pub-signs, and […]

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Anyone for Quidditch?

Anyone for Quidditch?

Quidditch is a sport created by Rowling in the Harry Potter series of novels, which have now sold over 450 million copies and have been translated into 67 languages. The global popularity of the books has led to worldwide exposure for Quidditch, and even to this fictional sport being adapted for the Muggle (or non-wizard) […]

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How well can you do on our etymology quiz?

How well do you know your etymologies?

How much do you really know about where your vocabulary comes from? Do you know your Latin roots from your Greek ones? How about Japanese from Cantonese? Hebrew from Hawaiian? Test your knowledge in our interactive etymology quiz and find out if you are a student, an amateur or an expert etymologist. You can find […]

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Back pedaling or back peddling?

Pedal or peddle?

English spelling is full of apparent idiosyncrasies – native speakers and learners alike grapple with doubling consonants, how to form plurals, ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’’, and have to dodge umpteen other potential pitfalls. Another rich source of mistakes is the fact that English contains pairs of similar-sounding words (homophones). These words have different […]

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Surprising word stories: Mr Punch, Dr Murray, and the first tonk

Surprising word stories: Mr Punch, Dr Murray, and the first tonk

Many sports fans will be familiar with the verb tonk, which is widely used to describe the action of giving a ball a good firm hit. Less familiar, but common enough, is the noun tonk describing the same action. Both are of course in the Oxford English Dictionary, with histories traced back to the early […]

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When the OED decided to include the interjections LOL and OMG as new words in 2011, it seemed as though the apocalypse had finally come.

From ‘gadzooks’ to ‘cowabunga’: some episodes in the life of the interjection

When the Oxford English Dictionary decided to include the interjections LOL and OMG as new words in 2011, it seemed as though the apocalypse had finally come. From the tone of so many newspaper commentaries and angry blogs reacting to the news, I might have expected to have seen a few senior editors brought up […]

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