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]

In one’s cups, or: good wine needs no bush

A Happy New Year! It has arrived, in full accordance with The Oxford Etymologist’s bold promise. Once upon a time, the ability to see into the future was called second sight (clairvoyance is too
A Happy New Year! It has arrived, in full accordance with The Oxford Etymologist’s bold promise. Once upon a time, the ability to see into the future was called second sight (clairvoyance is too [More]

Looming, looming, looming: Part 2

The New Year is looming! I can write a most edifying post about 2017, or rather about what happened a hundred years ago, in 1917, but this is an etymological blog, so I, a hard-working cobbler, will
The New Year is looming! I can write a most edifying post about 2017, or rather about what happened a hundred years ago, in 1917, but this is an etymological blog, so I, a hard-working cobbler, will [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]

An ax(e) to grind

That words travel from land to land is no secret. I do not only mean the trivial borrowings of the type known so well from the history of English. For instance, more than a thousand years ago, the
That words travel from land to land is no secret. I do not only mean the trivial borrowings of the type known so well from the history of English. For instance, more than a thousand years ago, the [More]

Etymology gleanings for November 2016

I keep receiving this question with some regularity (once a year or so), and, since I have answered it several times, I’ll confine myself to a few very general remarks. Etymology is a branch of
I keep receiving this question with some regularity (once a year or so), and, since I have answered it several times, I’ll confine myself to a few very general remarks. Etymology is a branch of [More]

(All) my eye and Betty Martin!

The strange exclamation in the title means “Fiddlesticks! Humbug! Nonsense!” Many people will recognize the phrase (for, among others, Dickens and Agatha Christie used it), but today hardly anyone
The strange exclamation in the title means “Fiddlesticks! Humbug! Nonsense!” Many people will recognize the phrase (for, among others, Dickens and Agatha Christie used it), but today hardly anyone [More]

How to write a good sentence

Some years ago, I sent off a manuscript to an editor. After the usual period of review, the editor sent back a note saying that he liked the work, but suggested that I should make it “less
Some years ago, I sent off a manuscript to an editor. After the usual period of review, the editor sent back a note saying that he liked the work, but suggested that I should make it “less [More]