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Monthly Gleanings,
May 2006

by Anatoly Liberman Alex, a fifth-grader and so far the youngest reader of this blog, wants to know how to start investigating one’s family name. This question interests many people who study their genealogy. (Pay attention to the spelling: in American English, genealogy rhymes with geology, biology, and philology, but its root is Latin genea […]

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Cuckoo Birds in Gawky Park,
Or, Our Etymological Ailing Tooth

by Anatoly Liberman Many years ago, I participated in a meeting of Russian and British students in a town that was then called Leningrad. In the Soviet Union, everything, from theaters and community centers to parks and streets, was named after Gorky. At a certain moment, one of the British students began to giggle. When […]

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Unsung Heroes of Etymology

By Anatoly Liberman
Those who look up the origin of a word in a dictionary are rarely interested in the sources of the information they find there. Nor do they realize how debatable most of this information is. Yet serious research stands behind even the controversial statements in a modern etymological dictionary.

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Pre-Word History,
Or, Does the Buck Stop Here?

by Anatoly Liberman Modern English is swamped with words borrowed from other languages. One does not have to be a specialist to notice the presence of the Romance element in it or to guess that samovar has come from Russian and samurai, from Japanese. It is the details that, as usual, pose problems. Not only […]

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