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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

One Minute Word Histories

Historical lexicographer Elizabeth Knowles introduces her new book, How to Read a Word, which aims to introduce anyone with an interest in language to the pleasures of researching word histories. Previously I brought you an interview filmed by George Miller of Podularity, in which she suggested some ways to get started with word research. In the following three videos, Elizabeth gives us three one minute word histories. Click here to read more by Elizabeth Knowles.

On ‘avatar':

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/16857473[/vimeo]

On ‘Twitterati':

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/16855788[/vimeo]

On ‘skulduggery':

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/16856197[/vimeo]

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Recent Comments

  1. Stephen Goranson

    The Oxford English Dictionary says of “skulduggery, n.” “Etymology: altered < sculduddery n." Do you not accept this?

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Peter Sokolowski and Lauren, Lauren. Lauren said: 3 VIDEOS: http://bit.ly/h1PMvL [...]

  3. Jan Sammer

    Given the origin of the word in in the mid-19th century Minnesota with its large Swedish immigrant population, a useful approach might be to turn to Swedish as a possible source of the term. It turns out that “skuld” in Swedish means “debt, guilt, blame”, while “skulder” means “indebtedness”. It seems plausible that among 19th century Minnesota Swedes the hypothetical word “*skuldigger” was used to refer to a swindler, a confidence artist, a cheat, i.e., someone who borrowed money with no intention of repaying it. The typical behavior of a “*skuldigger” then became known in English as “sculduggery”.

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