Tag: word origins

kangaroo

Kangaroo: the international and regional word

In 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip and his fleet of ships arrived in Australia, in the area that would become Sydney, in order to establish a convict colony. Governor Phillip had in his possession a list of Aboriginal words, provided to him by the botanist Joseph Banks (and called ‘the New Holland language’), which it was […]

Read more »
tartan large

The meaning of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and other Scottish words

The following is adapted from the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins. Scotland has given English many words—some from the Gaelic language, some from Scots, and others reflecting links to further shores. The Scots poet Robert Burns (1759–96) has also weighed in with memorable expressions. ‘Auld Lang Syne’ Anyone who has ever been to a New […]

Read more »
couple man woman ballroom dancers tangoing  silhouette

The language of Strictly Come Dancing

First of all, if you didn’t get the witty wordplay of my title, don’t bother to read on. Dan’s class; dance class? Never mind, this isn’t Strictly Pun Dancing after all. I’m sorry*, I’ll stop now. If, like me, you spend your Saturday evenings with a bottle of red, agonizing over Sophie’s samba or Fiona’s […]

Read more »
movie reel

Origin stories: fictional titles and their lasting impressions

How I stopped worrying and learned to love the language To avoid appearing like simple-minded vessels of superficial consumption, we often try not to let on the extent to which media has come to inform our lives. From the time we are young, we’re encouraged to value real-life experiences over the simulated kind found in […]

Read more »
Thanksgiving dinner

From 1621 to 1863: giving thanks for new words of old

America’s “First Thanksgiving” is often attributed to the early 17th century (1621, in fact) when a small band of Pilgrims gathered with a small band of American Indians to partake together of a bountiful harvest at Plymouth Plantation. This celebration lasted a whopping three days—and it wasn’t called “Thanksgiving”. Only in 1863 was the annual […]

Read more »
Well-known Doctor Who words include Tardis.

The language of Doctor Who, Part 1

If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cry of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you? With this tantalizing question, William Hartnell opened the doors of the Tardis to reveal to its new and rather sceptical crew their first destination in an adventure which has, with […]

Read more »
romans

English words of Latin origin

An extract from the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins. As well as education, wine, roads, under-floor heating, and the fresh water system, the Romans gave us words and phrases. Far from being a dead language, Latin is alive and well, and may be found in a sentence near you. English is full of words of […]

Read more »

A Durrellian Dictionary

By Yani papadimos (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

7 November marks the anniversary of Lawrence Durrell’s death. He was an author for readers of dictionaries par excellence. And while that may seem peculiar praise, it also shapes one way of reading the man. Dictionaries have an indexical nature, and the most labour intensive word for a reader is “See…” Durrell tells us he […]

Read more »

Tweets