Shakespeare’s false friends

False friends (‘faux amis’) are words in one language which look the same as words in another. We therefore think that their meanings are the same and get a shock when we find they are not.
False friends (‘faux amis’) are words in one language which look the same as words in another. We therefore think that their meanings are the same and get a shock when we find they are not. [More]

The evolution of the word ‘evolution’

It is curious that, although the modern theory of evolution has its source in Charles Darwin’s great book On the Origin of Species (1859), the word evolution does not appear in the original text at
It is curious that, although the modern theory of evolution has its source in Charles Darwin’s great book On the Origin of Species (1859), the word evolution does not appear in the original text at [More]

What is the history of the word ‘hip’?

James Brown was famously introduced by Lucas ‘Fats’ Gonder at the Apollo Theater in the early 1960s as ‘The Hardest Working Man in Show Business’, an epithet that stuck with Brown for his entire
James Brown was famously introduced by Lucas ‘Fats’ Gonder at the Apollo Theater in the early 1960s as ‘The Hardest Working Man in Show Business’, an epithet that stuck with Brown for his entire [More]

Swear words, etymology, and the history of English

Have you ever noticed that many of our swear words sound very much like German ones and not at all like French ones? From vulgar words for body parts (a German Arsch is easy to identify, but not so
Have you ever noticed that many of our swear words sound very much like German ones and not at all like French ones? From vulgar words for body parts (a German Arsch is easy to identify, but not so [More]

Pluto and its underworld minions

Early this week the spacecraft New Horizons began its flyby of Pluto, sending a wealth of information to back to Earth about Pluto and its moons. It’s an exciting time for astronomers and those
Early this week the spacecraft New Horizons began its flyby of Pluto, sending a wealth of information to back to Earth about Pluto and its moons. It’s an exciting time for astronomers and those [More]

Coleridge’s way with words

Why should we commemorate Samuel Taylor Coleridge? The obvious reason is his high status as a poet, but a better one might be his exuberance as a wordsmith. As a poet, after all, he is widely known
Why should we commemorate Samuel Taylor Coleridge? The obvious reason is his high status as a poet, but a better one might be his exuberance as a wordsmith. As a poet, after all, he is widely known [More]