Sleeveless errand

The phrase is outdated, rare, even moribund. Those who use it do so to amuse themselves or to parade their antiquarian tastes. However, it is not quite dead, for it sometimes occurs in books
The phrase is outdated, rare, even moribund. Those who use it do so to amuse themselves or to parade their antiquarian tastes. However, it is not quite dead, for it sometimes occurs in books [More]

Spelling and knowhow: the oddest English spellings, part 23

We are so used to the horrors of English spelling that experience no inconvenience at reading the word knowhow. Why don’t know and how rhyme if they look so similar? Because such is life. The post
We are so used to the horrors of English spelling that experience no inconvenience at reading the word knowhow. Why don’t know and how rhyme if they look so similar? Because such is life. The post [More]

Why bother?

Yes, there is every reason to bother. Read the following: “One of the most common expressions in everyday life, and one which is generally used by all classes, is the expression ‘Don’t bother me!’
Yes, there is every reason to bother. Read the following: “One of the most common expressions in everyday life, and one which is generally used by all classes, is the expression ‘Don’t bother me!’ [More]

Tom, Dick, Harry, and other memorable heroes

Why Tom, Dick, and Harry? Generic names? If so, why just those? From Suffolk to Yorkshire people speak about some Laurence and some Lumley, whose fame rests only on the fact that both have
Why Tom, Dick, and Harry? Generic names? If so, why just those? From Suffolk to Yorkshire people speak about some Laurence and some Lumley, whose fame rests only on the fact that both have [More]

Bolder than a boulder and other stumps and stones of English orthography

One good thing about English spelling is that, when you look for some oddity in it, you don’t have to search long. So why do we have the letter u in boulder (and of course in Boulder, the name of a
One good thing about English spelling is that, when you look for some oddity in it, you don’t have to search long. So why do we have the letter u in boulder (and of course in Boulder, the name of a [More]

The eternal Cheshire cat

Unlike Alice, who was advised to begin at the beginning and stop only when she came to an end, I’d rather begin at the end. The English-speaking world is interested in the Cheshire cat only because
Unlike Alice, who was advised to begin at the beginning and stop only when she came to an end, I’d rather begin at the end. The English-speaking world is interested in the Cheshire cat only because [More]

Face to face with brash: part 2

James Murray showed great caution in his discussion of the Modern English words spelled and pronounced as brash (see Part I of this essay). It remains unclear how many of them are related. One of
James Murray showed great caution in his discussion of the Modern English words spelled and pronounced as brash (see Part I of this essay). It remains unclear how many of them are related. One of [More]

Understanding insults

When I was growing up in New Jersey, trading insults was part of making your way through the middle school: “If they put your brain on the edge of a razor blade, it would look like a BB rolling down
When I was growing up in New Jersey, trading insults was part of making your way through the middle school: “If they put your brain on the edge of a razor blade, it would look like a BB rolling down [More]

The history behind selected family names in Britain and Ireland [map]

We all have a surname, but how many of us know anything about its roots – origin, history, and what it means today? Family names are evidence of the diverse language and cultural movement of people
We all have a surname, but how many of us know anything about its roots – origin, history, and what it means today? Family names are evidence of the diverse language and cultural movement of people [More]

Coming out of the fog

This is a postscript to last week’s post on fog. To get my point across, as they say, let me begin with a few short remarks on word origins, according to the picture emerging from our best
This is a postscript to last week’s post on fog. To get my point across, as they say, let me begin with a few short remarks on word origins, according to the picture emerging from our best [More]