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Season’s greetings – Episode 29 – The Oxford Comment

Say goodbye to endless stuffing: it’s time to welcome our most beloved season of wreaths, wrapping paper…and confusion. The questions, as we began delving, were endless. Should we say happy holidays or season’s greetings?

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You’ll be a man, my son. Part 3

Obviously, I would not have embarked on such a long manhunt if I did not have my idea on the origin of the troublesome word. It will probably end up in the dustbin (also known as ash heap) of etymology, but there it will come to rest in good company.

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You’ll be a man, my son. Part 2

This is the continuation of the story about the origin of the Germanic word for man. Last week I left off after expressing great doubts about the protoform that connected man and guma and tried to defend the Indo-European girl from an unpronounceable name. As could be expected, in their attempts to discover the origin of man etymologists cast a wide net for words containing m and n.

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The meaning of “terrorism”

Anyone who saw the terror on the faces of the people fleeing the attacks in Paris last week will agree that terrorism is the right word to describe the barbaric suicide bombings and the shooting of civilians that awful Friday night. The term terrorism, though once rare, has become tragically common in the twenty-first century.

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Historical “emojis”

Emojis originated as a way to guide the interpretation of digital texts, to replace some of the clues we get in ordinary speech or writing that help us understand what someone is trying to communicate. In person or over the telephone, facial expression and voice modulation help us get our meaning across; in most forms of writing — blog posts, stories, even emails — we have the luxury of expressing ourselves at some length, which hopefully leads to clarity.

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Scholarly reflections on ’emoji’

Smiling face? Grimacing face? Speak-No-Evil Monkey? With the announcement of emoji as the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year, we asked a number of scholars for their thoughts on this new word and emerging linguistic phenomenon.

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The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is… an emoji

As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time to look back and see which words have been significant throughout the past twelve months, and to announce the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year. Without further ado, we can reveal that the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 is…

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The AUTO- age

How readily someone may be understood when using a new word will depend on several factors: the intuitable transparency of meaning, its clarity in context, the receptiveness of the audience, and so on.

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You’ll be a man, my son. Part 1

The title will probably be recognized at once: it is part of the last line of Kipling’s poem “If.” Unfortunately, Kipling’s only son John never became a man; he was killed in 1918 at the age of eighteen, a casualty of his father’s overblown patriotism. Our chances to reach consensus on the origin of the word man are not particularly high either.

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Pathfinders

For a long time I have been dealing with the words bad, bed, bud, body, bodkin, butt, bottom, and their likes. The readers who have followed the discussion will probably guess from today’s title that now the time of path has come round.

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Monthly etymology gleanings for October 2015

I keep receiving comments and questions about idioms. One of our correspondents enjoys the phrase drunk as Cooter Brown. This is a well-known simile, current mostly or exclusively in the American south. I can add nothing to the poor stock of legends connected with Mr. Brown. Those who claim that they know where such characters came from should be treated with healthy distrust.

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The “Bottom” Line

As promised in the previous post, I am going from body to bottom. No one attacked my risky etymology of body. Perhaps no one was sufficiently interested, or (much more likely) the stalwarts of the etymological establishment don’t read this blog and have no idea that a week ago a mine was planted under one of their theories.

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Gin a body meet a body

I am not sure that any lexicographer or historian of linguistics thought of writing an essay on James Murray as a speaker and journalist, though such an essay would allow the author to explore the workings of Murray’s mind and the development of his style. (Let me remind our readers that Murray, 1837-1915, died a hundred years ago.)

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Bare bodkins and sparsely clothed buttinskis, or, speaking daggers but using none

Few people would today have remembered the word bodkin if it had not occurred in the most famous of Hamlet’s monologues. Chaucer was the earliest author in whose works bodkin occurred. At its appearance, it had three syllables and a diphthong in the root, for it was spelled boidekin. The suffix –kin suggested to John Minsheu, our first English etymologist (1617), that he was dealing with a Dutch noun.

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Trick or treat – Episode 27 – The Oxford Comment

From baristas preparing pumpkin spiced lattes to grocery store aisles lined with bags of candy, the season has arrived for all things sweet-toothed and scary. Still, centuries after the holiday known as “Halloween” became cultural phenomenon, little is known to popular culture about its religious, artistic, and linguistic dimensions.

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Etymology gleanings for September 2015

It so happened that I have been “gleaning” the whole month, but today I’ll probably exhaust the questions received during the last weeks. From a letter: “I have been told Norwegians would say forth and back rather that back and forth since it was logical for them to envision going away, then coming back.”

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