Tag: word origins

The Battenberg Cake was given its current name to celebrate the 1884 marriage of Prince Louis of Battenberg to a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, also called Victoria.

5 elaborate cakes with equally elaborate names

Readers with a sweet tooth will be interested to note that at the end of July each year, dessert-lovers around the world celebrate Cheesecake Day. As well as being the perfect excuse to indulge, Cheesecake Day honours a cake thought to have its origins in Ancient Greece, which just goes to show that not much […]

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English words of French origins, and how to pronounce them correctly

English words of French origin and how to pronounce them

On 14 July 1789, the storming of the Bastille prison in the centre of Paris marked the beginning of the French Revolution. It was a major watershed in the history of Europe and is today still celebrated as a public holiday in France. The event gave the country a national motto as well: liberté, égalité, […]

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Bowdlerize (or bowdlerise) means ‘remove material that is considered improper or offensive from (a text or account), especially with the result that the text becomes weaker or less effective’.

What did Bowdler bowdlerize?

Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) was a doctor, chess player, and devotee of prison reform – but his legacy lies in his editing of Shakespeare. Bowdlerize (or bowdlerise) means ‘remove material that is considered improper or offensive from (a text or account), especially with the result that the text becomes weaker or less effective’. Effectively, it refers […]

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The word burkini has entered widespread use this year.

Taking a dip into the language of swimming

The British summer may be shaping up to be something of a damp squib so far, but that hasn’t stopped a new swimwear term making it into the dictionary in 2016. Thanks to its push by leading British retailers Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser, the word burkini has entered widespread use this year, […]

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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

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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