In this blog post, the Oxford Etymologist dives into the lexicographical history of two puzzling English homonyms: “mother” and “haggard.”
Superman has been around for more than eighty years. The word “super” been a part of English much longer. It was borrowed into English from Latin, and in Old English we already find the word “superhumerale” to refer to a religious garment worn over the shoulders.
This is the second and last part of the henchman tale, of which the first part appeared a week ago (August 25, 2021). The difficulties confronting an etymologist are two: 1) We don’t know exactly what the word henchman meant when it first surfaced in Middle English, and 2) the obscure Medieval Latin gloss used […]
I am aware of only two English words whose origin has provoked enough passion and bad blood to inspire a thriller. The first such word is “cockney” and the second is “henchman”.
The popularity of ninepence in proverbial sayings is amazing. To be sure, nine, along with three and seven, are great favorites of European folklore. No one knows for sure why just those numerals achieved such prominence.
The SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy) initiative advocates for the value of the social sciences, humanities, and arts subject areas in helping us to understand the world in which we live and find solutions to global issues. As societies around the world respond to the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, research from SHAPE disciplines has the potential to illuminate how societies process and recover from various social crises.
Some homonyms are truly ancient: the words in question might sound alike or be nearly identical more than a millennium ago. But more often a newcomer appears from nowhere and pushes away his neighbors without caring for their well-being.
Chide remains a word “of unknown origin,” even though the Online Etymological Dictionary mentions the hypothesis suggested in my 2008 An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology. Perhaps it might be interesting to some of our readers to know the history of research into the etymology of this verb.
Where does the relative clause begin and the main clause end? Why does the teacher sometimes call them adjective clauses? Should I use that or which or who? And what is the story with restrictive and non-restrictive?
The year 2020 posed myriad challenges for everyone and now that we have reached the mid-way point of 2021, it is clear that, although the crises are not yet fully averted, the year thus far has already boasted some encouraging events.
This week’s blog post concerns the origin of English “flock”, as in a flock of gulls and a tuft of wool. The two flocks are not related and the origin of the first is unknown. I am unable to unravel this knot, but I can perhaps explain how the problem originated and venture a precarious hypothesis.
Since early 2020, we’ve seen the phrase “the new normal” used everywhere to describe every aspect of our lives post-coronavirus. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 had a huge impact on the library sector with closures happening globally, equally seen among institutional libraries as well as public libraries. As a result, we’ve seen new initiatives being adopted and revised strategies implemented.
I have been meaning to write about homonyms for quite some time, and now this time has come. Here we are interested in one question only, to wit—why so many obviously different words are not distinguished in pronunciation, or, to change the focus of the enquiry, why language, constantly striving for the most economical and most perfect means of expression (or so it seems), has not done enough to get rid of those countless ambiguities.
Let me begin by saying that the best authorities disagree on the etymology of “beacon,” and my suggestion with which I’ll finish this essay is my own.
Listen to season two of The VSI Podcast for concise and original introductions to a selection of our VSI titles from the authors themselves.
The study of language has generated a lot of outlandish ideas: various bits of prescriptive dogma, stereotypes and folklore about dialects, fantasy etymologies, wild theories of the origin of language. Every linguist probably has their own list. When these ideas come up in classes or conversations, I have sometimes referred to them as crazy, wacky, loony, kooky, or nutty. I’m going to try to stop doing that.