As you’re probably aware (you certainly will be if you live in Scotland or one of the other UK countries!), on 18 September people on both sides of the Scottish independence debate – “Yes” voters, who want independence, and “No” voters, who want to stay with the United Kingdom – will be casting their votes. And in spite of their […]

Today is the International Day of Happiness so websites and blogs will probably be awash with videos featuring “Happy” by Pharrell Williams (or check out the 24-hours of Happy version). But what about the true meaning of happiness (or at least, its etymology)? Here it is, courtesy of the Online Etymology Dictionary: happy (adj.) late 14c., “lucky, favored […]

Today is apparently National Burger Day. For those of us more interested in words than in food (who am I kidding?), here’s the etymology of burger (and of hamburger), courtesy of the Online Etymology Dictionary. burger (n.) 1939, American English, shortened from hamburger (q.v.). hamburger (n.) 1610s, “native of Hamburg;” the meat product so called […]

Merriam-Webster’s “Trend Watch” reported a spike in lookups of the word “hunker” in the run-up to Hurricane (Superstorm?) Sandy. They give this CNN headline as an example: “From Maine to South Carolina, states hunker down for storm.” Here’s the definition of hunker, from the Online Etymology Dictionary: hunker (v.) “to squat, crouch,” 1720, Scottish, of uncertain […]

Yikes! I was browsing through the Online Etymology Dictionary for -le frequentatives the other day, as you do, and eventually arrived at the etyolomogical definition of feisty (I was looking for “fizzle”, but one’s as bad as the other, frankly). feisty 1896, “aggressive, exuberant, touchy,” Amer.Eng., with -y (2) + feist “small dog,” earlier fice, […]

The title of my post on “bamboozled” comes from the wonderful song “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered“, from the Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey. From a language perspective, here’s the Online Etymology Dictionary again, on “glamour”: glamour (n.) 1720, Scottish, “magic, enchantment” (especially in phrase to cast the glamor), a variant of Scottish gramarye “magic, enchantment, […]

Ofgem, the UK energy regulator, has carried out a review of energy companies’ pricing practices. The review found that competition is being stifled by a combination of tariff complexity, poor supplier behaviour, and lack of transparency. The Chief Executive said: Consumers have told us that energy suppliers’ prices are too complicated. It is no surprise that […]

You know you’ve got problems when you’re flicking through a jewellery catalogue and your eye homes in on the etymology tidbits rather than the diamonds. The tidbit in question comes from the Hamilton and Inches catalogue: The word “carat” when applied to gemstones is a unit of weight. It is a distortion of “carob”: the […]

I’ve just been reading Khoi Vinh’s marvellous blog, Subtraction. In his post on “Ways I’m a Dork: Travel Edition” he describes the Grid-It Organizer from Cocoon. The Grid-It holds “all the paraphernalia — cables, remotes, pens, dongles, adapters, etc.” that most of us now need to pack for work trips (and probably holidays too). The […]

Fascinating comma fact 1 A comma is not just a punctuation mark, it’s also a type of butterfly, so-named because of the white comma-shaped marking on the underside of its wing (you can just about see it in the photo). UK Butterflies (which provides more detailed photos) describes the Comma as looking like a “tatty […]