The unprecedented difficulty of B(e)

A dictionary is in indeed a collection of stories and each word entry has a unique tale to tell. If we choose the verb 'be', we encounter a special insight into English, and into the society and
A dictionary is in indeed a collection of stories and each word entry has a unique tale to tell. If we choose the verb 'be', we encounter a special insight into English, and into the society and [More]

For want of a comma

The Oxford Comma, so named because it first appeared in the 1905 Oxford University Press Style Guide, is the comma that comes before the word and in a series of three or more listed items. Also
The Oxford Comma, so named because it first appeared in the 1905 Oxford University Press Style Guide, is the comma that comes before the word and in a series of three or more listed items. Also [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]

Voltaire and the one-liner

As we mark Voltaire’s 323rd birthday – though the date of 20 February is problematic, the subject of another blog – what significance does the great Enlightenment writer have for us now? If I had
As we mark Voltaire’s 323rd birthday – though the date of 20 February is problematic, the subject of another blog – what significance does the great Enlightenment writer have for us now? If I had [More]

Etymology gleanings for February 2017

From time to time people share with me their versions of Spelling Reform. I rarely respond to such letters, because, unfortunately, I have little to say. The problem, as I see it, is not the ideal
From time to time people share with me their versions of Spelling Reform. I rarely respond to such letters, because, unfortunately, I have little to say. The problem, as I see it, is not the ideal [More]

Ineffable facts, deep ignorance, and the sub-algebra hypothesis: Part 2

If there are any ineffable facts, then it is striking that they essentially are nowhere to be found. It is natural to think of ineffable facts as rare, radical exceptions, something unusual, maybe
If there are any ineffable facts, then it is striking that they essentially are nowhere to be found. It is natural to think of ineffable facts as rare, radical exceptions, something unusual, maybe [More]

Ineffable facts, deep ignorance, and the sub-algebra hypothesis: Part 1

There are many things we do not know, but sometimes our ignorance runs deeper than other times. The post Ineffable facts, deep ignorance, and the sub-algebra hypothesis: Part 1 appeared first on
There are many things we do not know, but sometimes our ignorance runs deeper than other times. The post Ineffable facts, deep ignorance, and the sub-algebra hypothesis: Part 1 appeared first on [More]

Face to face with brash: part 1

Lat week, I discussed the hardships endured by an etymologist who decides to investigate the origin of English br- words, and promised to use that post as an introduction to the story of brash.
Lat week, I discussed the hardships endured by an etymologist who decides to investigate the origin of English br- words, and promised to use that post as an introduction to the story of brash. [More]

Approaching “brash”

Two weeks ago, I promised to deal with the word brash, but, before doing so, I would like to make it clear that we are approaching a minefield. Few people, except for professional etymologists,
Two weeks ago, I promised to deal with the word brash, but, before doing so, I would like to make it clear that we are approaching a minefield. Few people, except for professional etymologists, [More]

The language of chess

The dust has barely settled on last year’s world chess championship match in New York: Norway’s Magnus Carlson defended his title again the tough challenger Sergei Karjakin, in a close match. The
The dust has barely settled on last year’s world chess championship match in New York: Norway’s Magnus Carlson defended his title again the tough challenger Sergei Karjakin, in a close match. The [More]