If we expect someone to save our souls, this person won’t be an etymologist, because no language historian knows the origin of the word soul, and without a convincing etymology, how can anyone save the intangible substance it denotes? Yet nothing prevents us from looking at the main attempts to decipher the mysterious word.
In this week’s blog post, the Oxford Etymologist dives deeper into the competing origin theories for the verb “bless”—with “curse” as an added bonus.
I was reading a column in a chess magazine when I came across the description of a game’s finish as a bygone conclusion. “That’s really weird,” I thought, “It should have said foregone conclusion.”
From God (or rather, god) to bless. But before turning to the history of the word “bless”, I would like to respond to the questions asked in connection with the “good”/”God” dilemma.
Listen to season three of The VSI Podcast for concise and original introductions to a selection of our VSI titles from the authors themselves.
In this blog post, the Oxford Etymologist details the etymology of the adjective “good”. If it is not related to “god”, then what is its origin?
A few days ago, I received a letter from a well-educated reader, who asked me whether the English words “god” and “good” are related.
“Understand” is a teaser: each of the two elements of this compound is clear, but why does it mean what it does?
English verbs show tremendous variety. Some have a lot of semantic content and serve as the main predicate of a sentence—as transitive or intransitive or linking verbs.
In this month’s round-up of questions from readers, the Oxford Etymologist tackles “see”, “echo”, “Baba Yaga”, “masher”, and more.
Today I’ll try to say something about the verb “see.” Once again, we’ll have to admit that the more basic a word is, the less we know about its remote history.
The etymology of the word “hear” is especially tough – but life would be a dull thing is everything was clear.
The phrase in a/the twinkling of a bedpost (with the archaic variant bedstaff) means the same as in a twinkling of an eye, that is, “very quickly,” because twinkle, when used metaphorically, refers to a rapid movement. Agreed: eyes and stars twinkle, but bedposts don’t, and here is the rub.
Any large organization or bureaucracy is likely to have a style guide for its internal documents, publications, and web presence. Some organizations go a step further and develop what is known as a control language.
The Oxford Etymologist is out of hibernation and picks up where he left off in mid-December. It may be profitable to return to the origin of “star”, but from a somewhat broader perspective.
Nothing is known about the origin of the phrase “Milky Way.” By contrast, the origin of the word “star” is not hopelessly obscure, which is good, because stars and obscurity have little in common.