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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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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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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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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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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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