Tag: word origins

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When in Rome… read some place name idioms

We recently looked at people’s names in common expressions, and now it’s the turn of place names. Why do certain locations become proverbial, and which place-related idioms have fallen out of favour? Sent to Coventry No disrespect intended to the people of Coventry, but, idiomatically at least, it is not a very pleasant place to […]

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Lord Byron in the OED

Lord Byron, one of Britain’s greatest poets, was born on this day in 1788, so we thought this might be a good opportunity to trace his influence on the English language. We have consulted the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and discovered more about Byron’s innovative use of language. While all the words listed below existed […]

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Ancient Greece

Why it’s all Greek to you and that shouldn’t be a problem

“Give me a word, any word and I’ll show you how the root of that word is Greek. Ok? How about arachnophobia? Αράχνη, that comes from the Greek word for spider, and φοβία is a phobia, it means fear. So fear of spiders. There you go!” “OK Mr Portokalos. How about the word kimono?” “Hmm, […]

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Video: what is the origin of the word vape?

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10 words that came to life 100 years ago

As 2014 draws to a close, we thought we’d take a look at some of the words celebrating their 100th birthday this year. While some of these may be antedated if older examples are found, the earliest evidence currently in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for each of the words below is 1914. So, join […]

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Twelve words of Christmas

Christmas comes but once a year, as some celebrants are wont to say, as do many of the words special to the season. Like so many Christmas lights, let’s untangle some holiday word histories–twelve, fittingly enough–to see what they might illuminate. Rudolph A number of animals give us their season’s greetings during Christmastime. Perhaps the most famous is Rudolph the […]

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From mistletoe to noisy birds: the origins of Christmas words

Mistletoe encounters can be very hit-or-miss. My own experiences usually involve kissing a definite non-target rather than the person I’d been lingering beneath the foliage for. It was therefore with some satisfaction that I discovered that the literal meaning of mistletoe is ‘dung-on-a-twig’, the inspiration of the Anglo-Saxons who realized that the plant is fertilized […]

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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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