Channeling the roots of “channel”

The word channel may have a secret back channel to a Semitic or Arabic root. 

When it comes to Russia, Trump just can’t change the channel. The Washington Post reported last Friday that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, talked about setting up a secret back channel of communications with Russia this past December. As Washington adds this latest scandal to its Trump-Russia investigations, let’s channel the etymology of channel.

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The roots, er, reeds, of “channel.” (Pixabay)

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Ensnared by “scandal”

Scandal ultimately comes from the Greek for a “spring trap.” 

With smoke continuing to billow from the White House over the Trump-Russia investigation, there’s something else in the air: the word scandal. What’s the etymological fire behind this word?

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That’s a big scandal. (Pixabay)

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Why does news “break”?

The past few weeks have bombarded us with breaking news out of Washington, dishing up scoop after scoop on President Trump’s ongoing scandals. But for as much it can feel like the White House is breaking, why do we call it breaking news?

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These days, it can feel the news is broken. (Pixabay)

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What is the “peach” in “impeachment”?

The word impeach begins—and can end up—in “shackles.”

The political nature of Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, coupled with Comey’s memo that Trump asked him to “let go” of the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, are prompting a lot of talk about the I-wordimpeachmentover concerns that Trump may have obstructed justice. Time, along with FBI evidence and witnesses in congressional investigations, will tell whether impeachment is called for. In the meantime, let’s have a look at why it’s called impeach.

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An etymological impeachment . (Pixabay)

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The “Bureau” of Etymological Investigation

A week out, Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has only raised more questions than it answers. In the meantime, let’s put the word bureau under an etymological investigation.

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‘Ditto,’ ‘skirmish,’ ‘zany’ and other words with surprising Italian roots

The passage of the Republican bill in the House to repeal Obamacare tees up a skirmish in the Senate—oh, allow me to put aside the newsy connections today, as urgent as the issue is. I’m off to Italy for a week or so.

Italian has given English a wealth of words for music (allegro, falsetto, piano, violin), art (chiaroscuro, virtuoso), politics (totalitarianism and fascism begin in Italian), and, of course, food (pasta, pizza, spaghetti, zucchini). Many of these words, especially the likes of chiaroscuro or pizza, we may recognize, linguistically or culturally, as Italian. But there are many other everyday words we owe to Italian that are hiding in plain sight. Here are a few choice ones:

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Bad traffic: Blame the Italians? (Pixabay)

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Cheeky hogwash? The origin of “swashbuckler”

In a rather imaginative assessment of the Civil War during an interview with Salena Zito of the Washington Examiner, President Trump called  Andrew Jackson a “swashbuckler” who could have avoided the American Civil War. Putting aside Trump’s grasp of American history, let’s get a firmer grasp on the history of his colorful word, swashbuckler.

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The etymological equipment for “swashbuckling.” (Pixabay)

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