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Category Archives: Etymology
I’d been putting off writing this up, hoping to do all the necessary research first, but it’s a subject of discussion on Twitter (link), so here’s a brief outline: The traditional explanation of συκοφάντης, whose etymology implies that it means … Continue reading
Etymology is a tricky business. Here’s a simple proof for doubting students: English cognates are routinely formed from the present and participial stems of Latin verbs, often from both stems of the same verb. The present and participial stems of … Continue reading
One of the more difficult passages in Middleton’s play is the soliloquy of Harebrain (aka Shortrod) as the “pure virgin” (actually a courtesan) fetches his wife (I.ii.62-69): This is the course I take; I’ll teach the married man A new … Continue reading
Two things I learned last week: That there is a Curculio Institute, headquartered in Mönchengladbach, Germany. The website (www.curci.de) helpfully defines it as “Center for Studies on western Palearctic Curculionoidea”, in other words, European weevils. That their newsletter, formerly Weevil … Continue reading
Peter Davidson’s Poetry and Revolution: An Anthology of British and Irish Verse 1625-1660 (Oxford, 1998) includes a rather dull love-poem (number 36) by “T.C.”, most likely Thomas Cary, “Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Charles I” (516). The untitled poetic dialogue … Continue reading
. . . and there are definitely worse possibilities. When one language adopts words from another, it sometimes happens that standard spelling changes create a new pair of homonyms, making two words that were quite different in the source language … Continue reading
In a recent post at Chicago Boyz, David Foster asks “what the proper Greek would be for ‘government by clowns’”. There are several possibilities: A bomolochos was originally “one that waited about the altars, to beg or steal some of … Continue reading
I think it was Patterico’s Pontifications where I recently ran across a weblog called Verum Serum. An interesting name, since it has three or four meanings in Latin: True Whey (taking Verum as an adjective and Serum as a noun). … Continue reading
Ann Althouse ends a post on Wisconsin cuisine with a linguistic comment: . . . isn’t it cool that there’s a town called “Mazomanie.” It sounds sounds like a form of insanity. A cute and amazing mania. It does indeed … Continue reading
A local shopping center contains a ‘Center for Aesthetic Dentistry’. Wouldn’t that be the exact opposite of Anaesthetic Dentistry? Ouch!
The Rat wants a feminine equivalent of ‘avuncular’. That’s easy: ‘materteral’. According to the Random House Word of the Day site, the word is listed only once in the Oxford English Dictionary, but is actually older (1823) than ‘avuncular’ (1831). … Continue reading