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Word Origins

A rake’s etymological progress to hell

Three English words sound as rake: the garden instrument, the profligate, and a sailing term meaning “inclination from the perpendicular.” Though at first sight, they do not seem to be connected, I’ll try to show that their histories perhaps intertwine.

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Title cover of "Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels: Insulting the President from Washington to Trump" by Edwin L. Battistella, published by Oxford University Press

When meanings go akimbo

The realization started with the word akimbo. I had first learned it as meaning a stance with hands on the hips, and I associated the stance with the comic book image of Superman confronting evildoers. Body language experts sometimes call this a power pose, intended to project confidence or dominance.

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Word Origins

Sib and peace

The Oxford Etymologist has examined the verbs “begin” and “start.” For consistency’s sake, it is now necessary to say something about the noun and the verb “end.”

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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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