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Nicholson Baker once wrote an essay on the omnipresence, a century ago, of a word usage we never see anymore: lumber, used in reference to the contents of our minds. Lately, I have been interested in a phrase that was everywhere in the 19th century but has long since fallen out of use: after the […]more
It is assumed that the word pie came into English via Old French, from Latin pica ‘magpie’, which in turn is related to picus ‘green woodpecker’. Here, the allusion is perhaps to the various combinations of ingredients of a pie being comparable to the objects randomly collected by a magpie. Its sweet equivalent, the cake, on the other […]more
The history of man’s relationship with the domesticated carnivorous mammal Canis familiaris is a long and complex one, and is reflected in the language used across the centuries to describe the dog and its world. The word dog first occurs in Old English, but is less well-attested than the synonymous (and probably more formal and […]more