Tag: word origins

George R. R. Martin’s invented language in A Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin’s invented language in A Game of Thrones

This post includes spoilers for Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. This blog has hosted several pieces relating to the fantasy series Game of Thrones, including a guest post by the brilliant David Peterson, who created the fictional languages that appear on the television show. However, the blog has not yet discussed the invented words […]

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The usage of ‘thing’ to mean ‘generally known phenomenon’ has become remarkably popular in recent years.

When did ‘thing’ become a thing?

In May 2014, this blog briefly noted the rise of a new usage of the word thing to mean ‘generally known phenomenon’. This usage has been remarkably popular in recent years. Comedians, always alert to niceties of language, have called attention to the word’s new connotation. Recently, John Oliver introduced a new segment, titled ‘How […]

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Nothing is really known about the ultimate origin of the word elephant.

13 animal names and their meanings

Let’s take a look behind the meanings of some common animal names… Ostrich The bird’s name comes from a combination of the classical Latin avis, ‘bird’, and post-classical Latin struthio, strucio. The latter is derived from ancient Greek στρουθός (strouthos), which also means ‘sparrow’. The Greeks sometimes called the Ostrich στρουθοκάμηλος (strouthokamelos), literally ‘sparrow-camel’. Chameleon […]

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The origin of quid

What’s up with ‘quid’?

Bread, bones, clams, dough, and moolah: we have a lot of slang terms for money in the English language, to name just a few, er, noteworthy examples. Specific currencies have their own nicknames, too, of course. The Australian and American dollar, for example, often go by ‘buck’, which probably calls back the use of buckskins […]

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Country name origins

An A-Z of country name origins

We’ve taken on an ambitious task today: we’re looking at the origin stories behind the names (in English) of every single country in the world – using the list of countries as determined by the UN and information from the Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, discover surprising and intriguing language […]

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A large number of birds received their names through the imitation of their cries.

5 surprising origins of common bird names

A large number of birds received their names through the imitation of their cries. The cuckoo is an obvious example of such an onomatopoeic naming, and so are the owl, the cockatiel, and many more. Some bird names, however, have a more intriguing linguistic history. Here we take a look at a few examples. Magpie […]

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phrases with run

6 ‘run’ phrases you probably don’t know

The word run might mean many different things to you. Personally, it makes me figuratively run for the hills, such is my feeling about exercise. Run might also make a lexicographer blanch; it is a strong contestant for the verb with the most meanings, at over 650 (this of course includes phrases and phrasal verbs). […]

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The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling and The Jungle Book in the Oxford English Dictionary

“I am, by calling, a dealer in words; and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”  Rudyard Kipling’s linguistic legacy is apparent from the more than 2500 quotations from his works that appear in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED); the term Kiplingism even has its own entry. This turns out to […]

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