Tag: word origins

Video: what is the origin of the word ‘quiz’?

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croquet

Death roll, leapfrog, and dambuster: the language of croquet

Now that spring and sunshine have reached Oxford, the croquet season has begun in earnest in college quads. Its reputation as a civilized, gentle pastime is confirmed by some of the terms used by players of the game: tea lady, dolly rush, trundle, and pirie poke. But the game has a nastier side too, witnessed […]

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ocean

Water, water, everywhere: how we named the oceans

Happy World Oceans Day! To celebrate, we’re taking a look at the linguistic roots of the world’s five oceans. Before we start, what of ocean itself? The word comes to English via Latin from the Greek ōkeanos, which meant ‘great stream encircling the earth’s disc’. The word ocean originally denoted the whole body of water […]

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emmy

Where do awards names come from?

While some arts awards – the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, for instance – more or less tell you what they are by their name, other awards have a little more mystery in their monikers. Oscar According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the alternate name for an Academy Award – an ‘Oscar’ – […]

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Video: what is the origin of the word loo?

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fishing trawler

What is the difference between ‘trolling’ and ‘trawling’?

Are you ‘trawling through’ or ‘trolling through’ that online archive? Did you have a successful ‘trawl’ or ‘troll’ of that dictionary? It’s easy to understand why these words are often confused: not only do they sound similar (trOHl and trAWl), but both are loose synonyms for search. Trawl typically means to ‘sift through as part […]

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darwin

The evolution of the word ‘evolution’

It is curious that, although the modern theory of evolution has its source in Charles Darwin’s great book On the Origin of Species (1859), the word evolution does not appear in the original text at all. In fact, Darwin seems deliberately to have avoided using the word evolution, preferring to refer to the process of […]

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Orson-Welles-Show-1941

Where does the phrase ‘know where the bodies are buried’ come from?

It’s probably not too much of a surprise that Orson Welles’s greatest contribution to language comes from his greatest contribution to cinema. Following the rise and fall of fictional newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, Welles’s 1941 film Citizen Kane is regarded by many as one of the greatest films ever made, and it also contains […]

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