Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Tag: word origins

Eponymous English: from Benjamins and John Hancocks to boycotts and Draping?

Eponymous English: from Benjamins and John Hancocks to boycotts and Draping?

We all strive to leave a legacy. We remember history’s greats through plaques and monuments, books and movies, songs and works of art. Another (often overlooked) way we pay homage to people of the past is through language. We might name a place, a theorem, or even a disease after the person who first visited […]

Interactive etymology quiz

Interactive etymology quiz

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. Etymologies Quiz Game […]

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Okey-dokey! The story of the birth of OK’s playful grandchild

Okey-dokey! The story of the birth of OK’s playful grandchild

By the early twentieth century, OK was no longer a joke. The letters O and K did not prompt memories of the misspelled oll korrect, nor did they stimulate alternative explanations. In the nineteenth century, OK was recognized as a humorous abbreviation, but in the twentieth, it was understood merely as an arbitrary combination of […]

Red, White, and Blue: the international origins of our favorite Independence Day words

Red, White, and Blue: the international origins of our favorite Independence Day words

Today, many millions of citizens of the United States will engage in a number of rituals all centered on the marking of a historic event that occurred almost two hundred and fifty years ago – namely, the ratification by the Second Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence (not the voting that passed that document, […]

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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 […]

Hold on to your tin foil hat: the origin of the UFO

Hold on to your tin foil hat: the origin of the UFO

2 July is World UFO Day, a chance for us all to think about UFO sightings, and, for this blog, to take a journey from clay pigeons to the mysterious habits of abbreviations. Is this a saucer I see before me? On 24 June 1947 Kenneth Arnold, an American businessman, was flying towards Mount Rainier […]

From CAPTCHA to morphogen: how Alan Turing has influenced modern English

Alan_Turing_Memorial

23 June 2012 marks the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, 20th century mathematician and computer scientist. Turing is most famous today for his cryptanalysis work during World War II in which he and others at Bletchley Park broke the German Enigma ciphers and created the first electronic computers. But his influence stretches far […]

Ach crivens! The language of Discworld

Discworld

If you’re not familiar with the Discworld, the fantasy world created by author Sir Terry Pratchett which has featured in 39 bestselling novels, then you’ve certainly been missing out. For the uninitiated, Discworld is a flat world balanced on the backs of four giant elephants standing on the shell of the star turtle Great A’Tuin […]

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