Category Archives: Etymology

Another Curculio

Two things I learned last week: That there is a Curculio Institute, headquartered in Mönchengladbach, Germany. The website ( helpfully defines it as “Center for Studies on western Palearctic Curculionoidea”, in other words, European weevils. That their newsletter, formerly Weevil … Continue reading

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Curculio 5: Worst. Endearment. Ever.

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

Posted in Curculio: English, English Literature, Etymology, Orbilius | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Curculio 3: “Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice . . .”

. . . 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

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“Government by Clowns”?

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

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Latin Puzzle

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

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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

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Linguistic Puzzle I

A local shopping center contains a ‘Center for Aesthetic Dentistry’. Wouldn’t that be the exact opposite of Anaesthetic Dentistry? Ouch!

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Any Questions?

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

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Fooling the Gods?

Language Hat has an interesting post on the etymology of ‘theodolite’, which he treats as some kind of exotic or obsolete scientific instrument. I have used one on the job, though not in the last quarter-century. From 1978 to 1982 … Continue reading

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