As a nickname for the flag of the United States, the red, white, and blue is found by 1853. But what about those individuals words red, white, and blue? Let’s have a look at their origins, whose ancients roots make the US’s 242 years as a nation this year look ever so young.
Earlier this week, a raccoon dramatically scaled a skyscraper in St. Paul, Minnesota. Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) captured the event—and the attention and hearts of the internet. The #MPRRaccoon, as it came to be called, eventually summited the building, where it was caught and released into the wild, but not before going viral first.
This courageous climber truly lived up to its name, though, for the ultimate origin of the word raccoon its all about the hands.
At the G7 summit in Canada this week, Donald Trump’s recent tariffs are sparking unprecedented trade disputes with some of the US’s closest allies.
It takes a path into English you might not have guessed.
Heads up: strong language ahead.
Comedian Samantha Bee sparked controversy this week when she called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt” for her political complicity. The obscene remark, which Bee has since apologized for, had some wryly observing: why is everyone up in arms over feckless?
I think feckless and cunt are due for the etymological treatment.
On Hawaii’s Big Island, the Kilauea volcano has been erupting for weeks, its lava consuming whole cars, roads, and homes as it generates deadly vog and laze and heaves lava bombs. More alarms were raised this week as the lava’s molten march risked explosions at a geothermal power station.
But for such a fiery phenomenon, the origin of the word lava is, perhaps ironically, in the wash.
Upon their marriage today, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle don’t just become husband and wife. They also become the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Now, I won’t dare untangle the long and complex history of British peerage, but I will track down the origin of two of its titles, duke and duchess.
Mashed Radish turned five this week—and of course I forgot its birthday. Surely I was lost in the origin of some word or another.
Still, the occasion calls for some celebration. Since we’re marking five years, why don’t we toast with some punch?
A so-called caravan has arrived at the US border after trekking thousands of miles across Mexico from Central America. Now numbering in the hundreds, the people, including many women and children, are seeking asylum in the US from violence back home.
Caravan came to prominence earlier in April after Donald Trump tweeted an ominous reference to the group as it made its way to the border. The term has since spread in the media reporting on the migration news.
The asylum seekers have, indeed, come a long way in their efforts to find some safety—and so, too, has the word caravan travelled from afar.
This past week, TIME magazine’s talented Katy Steinmetz interviewed me for a fantastic piece on the challenges of using words that have offensive histories, such as bulldozer. (Steinmetz also interviewed me back in 2016, you may recall, about the fascinating Japanese linguistics behind words like Pokémon and karaoke.)
Catch up on my writing for the wonderful Emojipedia, too. This month, I wrote about 😏, or Smirking Face emoji, ever smug and suggestive in its many applications in our digital communication.
The verb smirk, for its part, dates back to the Old English smearcian, which was the go-to word for smile until the latter took over in Middle English. Smirk survived, but with a connotation of self-satisfaction. Cognates to smirk are not found in other Germanic languages, but smirk and smile do appear to be related in some way.