Archive for the Category: Etymology

A load of old claptrap

Claptrap is a great word that means ’empty verbiage or nonsense’. A claptrap was a also device that produced a clapping sound and was used in theaters to encourge applause from audiences. It can also mean ‘a trick or device to gain applause; humbug’. Synonyms include waffle, hot air and palaver. The word apparently comes […]

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Plains, pianos and floors

The Welsh word llawr [ɬau̯r] means floor, deck, gallery, stage, platform, cellar, basement, ground, face, and a few other things. I discovered today that it has cognates in all the other Celtic languages: – leur (Cornish) = floor, ground – leur (Breton) = area, ground, floor, soil – lár (Irish) = ground, floor, middle, centre […]

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Wheels with teeth

I discovered last night that in French a cog is a une dent, which also means a tooth, or une dent d’engrenage (“tooth gear”), and a cog wheel is une roue dentée (a toothed wheel), which is kind of a cog looks like. The English word cog, meaning a tooth on a gear, or a […]

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A Wayzgoose Chase

What do you call a printer that doesn’t work? A wayzgoose [ˈweɪzɡuːs]. A wayzgoose‽ What’s that? According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, a wayzgoose is “An annual summer dinner or outing held by a printing house for its employees.” The Oxford Dictionaries blog says that: the wayzgoose was originally an entertainment given by a master-printer […]

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Weathered pagodas and stretching times

The word for weather in Russian is погода (pogoda) [pɐˈɡodə], which sounds more or less like pagoda in English. The English word pagoda, which refers to an Asian religious building, especially a multistory Buddhist tower, comes from Portuguese pagode, which comes via Tamil from the Sanskrit भगवती ‎(Bhagavatī, name of a goddess) or भागवत ‎(Bhāgavata, […]

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Boxing tips

Today is Boxing Day in the UK, and there are a number of ideas about the origins of the name. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, defines Boxing Day as: “the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box” The earliest […]

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Weaving applications

There was some discussion at the French conversation group last night about job applications – one member of the group has been offered a job in an international school in southern France and will be moving there soon. The word application exists in French, but it’s not the one you use when applying for a […]

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Seeking diegesis

I learnt an interesting new word the other day – diegesis [ˌdaɪəˈdʒiːsɪs], which, according to Wikipedia means: a style of fiction storytelling that presents an interior view of a world in which details about the world itself and the experiences of its characters are revealed explicitly through narrative, and the story is told or recounted, […]

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Stitching Mail

I learned an interesting French word last night: maille [maj], which means stitch or mesh and appears in such expressions as: – maille à l’endroit = plain stitch – maille à l’envers / tombée / coulée = purl stitch – maille Jersey = stocking stitch – doublure maille = mesh lining – maille du tricot […]

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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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