Tag: word origins

hawking

All you never knew you wanted to know about the language of hawking

Among the many pleasures of reading Helen Macdonald’s moving memoir H is for Hawk is an inauguration into the arcane terminology of hawking. Mastery of this complex lexicon was a badge of social status in the Middle Ages. According to medieval legend, the terms for hawking and hunting were introduced by Sir Tristram, one of […]

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birds

Language ‘for the birds’: the origins of ‘jargon’, ‘cant’, and other forms of gobbledygook

Infarction? Heretofore? Problematize? Cathexis? Disrupt? Doctors have their medicalese, lawyers their legalese, scholars their academese. Psychologists can gabble in psychobabble, coders in technobabble. For people outside these professions, all their jargon seems ‘for the birds’ — all too true, if we look to the origin of the word jargon and its common synonyms. Let’s cut through all the jargon, cant, patois, argot, and gobbledygook with a look at the […]

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Video: what is the origin of the term ‘brass monkey’?

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Video: what is the origin of the term ‘UFO’?

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father

WordWatch roundup: terrorism, father, inshallah, and bastard-trench

This series investigates changes in lookups for words and their meanings across OxfordDictionaries.com. The graphs are based on website data collected over a four-week period, and the accompanying commentary explores how news and other current events have influenced these word trends and sudden peaks in interest. terrorism The mass shooting on 17 June at Emanuel A.M.E. […]

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Joe Dope - PM

Getting the dope on ‘dope’

Dope has lived a diverse slang life over the span of two centuries, only coming to its hip-hop adjectival sense of ‘good or excellent’ in the last 35 years. Dope as a stupid person was early American slang, first recorded in 1851, according to current Oxford English Dictionary (OED) evidence.

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generations

What are the origins of generation names?

The word seems to crop up every time you read a report on current cultural trends, especially in the US: millennial, referring to a ‘person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000’. But how did we end up with the term in the first place? And what about those other generation terms, like the Beat […]

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baskets

9 words you didn’t know had offensive origins

Nothing is stranger than discovering that words or phrases we hear every day have offensive or problematic origins. And while there’s no need to cast aspersions on the language of bygone days, it’s helpful to check in on the words we use and what they mean (or used to mean). Some of the words here […]

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