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Word Origins

Post-summer gleanings

The Oxford Etymologist answers readers’ questions on the origin of the word “race”, variants of “in one’s stockinged feet”, the folkloric creature Lady Hoonderlarly, and “bonfire.”

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The spell of spelling

English spelling can be endlessly frustrating. From its silent letters (could, stalk, salmon, February, and on and on) to its nonsensical rules (i before e except ….), to the pronunciation of ough (in cough, through, though, and thought).

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Word Origins

In one’s stockinged feet

One does not need to be an etymologist to suggest that stocking consists of “stock-” and “-ing”. The trouble is that though “-ing” occurs in some nouns, it looks odd in stocking. Few English words have more seemingly incompatible senses than stock.

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Oxford Academic

A year in review: Open Access at OUP

The open access landscape is fast evolving, and for good reason. Following the global outbreak of COVID-19 in which research and knowledge lay at the heart of hope, we have seen a renewed focus in the industry for open access publishing. In recognition of Open Access Week 2022, we reflect on the progress that has been made at OUP and the people who have been influential in driving it.

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Being a careful reader

When we are moving briskly though a supermarket, skimming ads, or focusing on a big purchase, it’s easy to be a less-than-careful reader. 

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Word Origins

Noises off? A guarded tribute to onomatopoeia and sea-sickness

While trying to solve etymological riddles, we often encounter references to sound-imitation where we do not expect them, but the core examples hold no surprise. It seems that nouns and verbs describing all kinds of noises should illustrate the role of onomatopoeia, and indeed, hum, ending in m, makes one think of quiet singing (crooning) and perhaps invites peace, while drum, with its dr-, probably evokes the idea of the noise associated with this instrument.

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The language of labor

September means back to school for students, but for those of us in unions, it is also the celebration the American Labor Movement and a good opportunity for us to take a look at some of the language of the labor movement.

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Word Origins

The word “condom”

For a long time, the word “condom” was unprintable. Neither the original OED nor The Century Dictionary featured the word. Several venues for discovering the origin of “condom” have been tried. It surfaced in texts at the beginning of the eighteenth century, but we cannot be sure that the word was coined in England.

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Word Origins

On mattocks and maggots, their behavior and origin

The mattock, a simple tool, has a name troublesome to etymologists even though it has been known since the Old English period. In this blog post, the Oxford Etymologist explores a new hypothesis for the origins of “mattock”.

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Word Origins

Etymology gleanings for August 2022

The history of “cheek by jowl” and especially the pronunciation of “jowl” could serve as the foundation of a dramatic plot, says the Oxford Etymologist in this week’s blog post.

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Word Origins

Cheek by jowl

The history of “cheek by jowl” and especially the pronunciation of “jowl” could serve as the foundation of a dramatic plot, says the Oxford Etymologist in this week’s blog post.

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