Tag archives: word origins
Arnold Zwicky, a professor of linguistics at Stanford University, several years ago coined a term for the mistaken belief that a word is newer than it actually is – the recency illusion. This is an easy trap to fall into – many people feel that if a word is new to them that it must be [...]
To commemorate the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 we are looking at English words of French origin. Hover over the image below to discover a selection of English words derived from French, from abattoir to zigzag. Click on the words to go straight to the dictionary entries.
This is not a shockingly grammatical sequel to the acclaimed series, but a chance to revel in the magically inventive language of the Harry Potter books. The release of the final Harry Potter film this week marks the end of an era for a generation of book and film lovers, having made author J. K. [...]
Read all about it… Recent events in the UK involving the News of the World Sunday newspaper have prompted a great deal of discussion and turmoil regarding what is and is not the proper role of a newspaper in society. In particular, allegations of phone hacking have drawn great scrutiny and, as a result of [...]
As those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying our summer, thoughts inevitably turn to those things we associate most strongly with Britain in that particular season. Strawberries and cream Of all the quintessential features of a British summer perhaps the most linguistically English of them all is the strawberry. Croquet and socks Croquet [...]
‘Bloomsday’ is commemorated throughout the world on June 16, celebrating the day, in 1904, on which the action of James Joyce’s groundbreaking novel Ulysses takes place. The word cloud above showcases just a few of the contributions to the English language made by James Joyce in all of his works, not just Ulysses. From dreck [...]
Today’s English owes much to many of the world’s languages, from French and German to Chinese and Hindi. Our interactive map below is the first of an occasional series which will offer you a glimpse of the range of linguistic influences that English has absorbed.
Click on the map to see how English has been shaped by French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Flemish. Your armchair travels should give you some interesting discoveries: could you guess the origins of fluff, anchovy, vamoose, and baize?
Shakespeare was writing at a time when the English language was in an unusual state of flux. Many English books, and even plays (though not those intended for the popular theatre) were still written wholly in Latin, because this was the best way to achieve an international readership. Shakespeare himself uses many Latin tags (Latin [...]
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