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Word Origins

Gr-words as mushrooms

Some words propagate like mushrooms: no roots but a sizable crowd of upstarts calling themselves relatives. Gr-words are the pet subject of all works on sound imitation and sound symbolism.

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Word Origins

Monosyllabic moping

The Oxford Etymologist the common but etymologically opaque verb “mope”, and other monosyllabic verbs.

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Moby Dick Oxford World's Classics

Weird Moby-Dick

There are a lot of peculiar phrases in Moby-Dick. My new introduction to the second Oxford World’s Classics edition of Herman Melville’s novel highlights the startling weirdness of the book, both in its literary form and its language.

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Becoming Emeritus

When I received the letter granting me emeritus status, I naturally got curious about the etymology.

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Word Origins

Some premature gleanings

I decided not to wait another week, let alone another four weeks, and discuss the notes and queries from my mail. As usual, I express my gratitude to those who have read the posts, added their observations, or corrected my mistakes.

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Word Origins

In the footsteps of our greatest favorite: vampire

We love books and movies about vampires, don’t we? Everybody knows who Dracula was, and many people believe that we owe the entire myth to him. This, however, is not true. In this blog post, the Oxford Etymologist deals with the history of the word “vampire.”

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East of the Wardrobe

Everyday Narnia: the language of another world

There is little doubt that “Narnia” has effectively entered the English language and that references to a “wardrobe” or “wardrobe door” have been given additional meanings by C. S. Lewis: any reference to it requires no explanation simply because everyone knows.

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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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