Archive for the Category: English

Why is it I and not i?

Have you ever wondered why the first person pronoun in English (I) is always written as a capital letter? I was asked about this the other day and though I would investigate. According to a blog post on Dictionary.com, it came about as a bit of an accident. In Old and Middle English the equivalent […]

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Scratching cartoons

The first cartoons, in the sense of humorous or satirical drawings, appeared in the magazine Punch in 1843, however the word was used from the 1670s to mean “a drawing on strong paper (used as a model for another work)”. Cartoon can also mean: – An artist’s preliminary sketch. – An animated film – A […]

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Unfolding developments

The word for to develop in Welsh is datblygu, which is a combination of dad (un-) and plygu (to fold), so Welsh developments “unfold”. Datblygu also means “to evolve; reveal, disclose, display. to unfold, unwrap, unfurl, unroll, spread out.” Plygu means “to (cause to) bend, deflect, bow, stoop, refract (light); fold, wrap. to subdue, subjugate, […]

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Parched torrents

Quite a lot of rain has fallen over the past day or so in the UK, thanks to Storm Angus, so I thought I’d look at the origins of some rain-related words. The word rain comes from the Old English rēn/reġn ‎(rain), from the Proto-Germanic *regnaz ‎(rain), possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *Hreǵ- ‎(to flow) or […]

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A Piece of Theatre

In French the word for play, as in a theatrical production, is pièce or pièce de théâtre. Pièce also means: – a room – a part (of a mechanism or machine) – a coin – a patch (on clothes) – a document – a piece, as in a one-piece swimsuit or a twelve-piece dinner service. […]

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Bants

Today I came across word that’s new to me – bants – which, according to the Oxford Dictionaries, means: Playfully teasing or mocking remarks exchanged with another person or group; banter. It’s also written bantz, and is an abbreviation of banter, a word of unknown origin which first appeared in writing in 1676 in a […]

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Neither fur nor feather

Today I came across an interesting Russian idiom in the book I’m reading (Moon Seed, by Stephen Baxter): Ни пуха, ни пера (Ni púkha, ni perá). It means literally “neither fur nor feather” and is used to wish someone good luck. The phrase was originally used by Russian hunters in a sarcastic/ironic way. The feathers […]

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Trumped

For some reason I thought I’d look into the word trump today. It has a number of meanings: 1. trump (noun): the suit, in a game of cards, that outranks all others; a playing card of that suit; something that gives one an advantage, especially one held in reserve. Etymology From triumph, from the French […]

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Romance and Horses

What does romance have to do with horses? Well, the word romance has a number of meanings: – A story relating to chivalry; a story involving knights, heroes, adventures, quests, etc. – An intimate relationship between two people; a love affair. – A strong obsession or attachment for something or someone. – Idealized love which […]

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Gorillas, monkeys and ponys

With a title like that, you might be expecting a post about animals, but in fact it’s about slang terms for money – a gorilla is £1,000, a monkey is £500 and a pony is £25. These names apparently come from old Indian banknotes and coins: the 25 Rupee coin had a pony on it, […]

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