First of all, a warning to readers. I normally try to keep this blog a-political and to focus mainly on language issues. However, I feel very passionately about the Scottish Referendum debate and its outcome. As this blog is my main platform for expressing my beliefs, this post, and maybe one other in the next few days, will have […]

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 […]

I love a good style guide. And I applaud anyone encouraging the use of clear English. But the GOV.UK style guide, produced by the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service (GDS) for the GOV.UK website (the new portal bringing together all, or most, of the UK’s government websites), is really bugging me. More specifically, the part on plain […]

The Scottish Government has just published the results of a poll to identify the nation’s favourite Scots word. The winner was “dreich”, which means “wet”, “cold” and/or “gloomy”. I’m not sure if that describes the Scottish weather, or just our character. Respondents were asked to choose their favourite from a list of 8 Scots language […]

I’ve just discovered a “new” Scottish online newspaper that’s been around for nearly 3 years but which I hadn’t heard of until yesterday. It’s the Caledonian Mercury, which was launched in January 2010. Their Heritage pages include a section on Useful Scots Words that looks very tempting. I discovered the Caledonian Mercury itself (I wonder […]

It’s been a while since I wrote about my (and your) favourite or least favourite words. But at Glasgow’s State of the City Economy Conference last week (9 Nov), some of the buzzwords and -phrases used by the speakers set my teeth on edge. And then I read a Macmillan Dictionary blog post on nouning and verbing, so […]

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, […]

For Christmas 2010, my son bought me Michael Quinion’s book Why is Q Always Followed by U?. It’s not the sort of book you’d read in one sitting, but it’s ideal for dipping into on short train or bus journeys or in dentists’ waiting rooms when the other patients have nabbed the only 2 interesting […]