I write about word origins buzzing in news and culture at mashedradish.com (@mashedradish). Last year, I read the complete works of Shakespeare and blogged about it at shakespeareconfidential.com (@bardconfidensh). You can also find my writing on Atlas Obscura, Mental Floss, Oxford Dictionaries, Nameberry, and Strong Language.
July 17 is World Emoji Day, a celebration of all things emoji. It’s the perfect occasion to promote some writing I’ve been doing for Emojipedia, the encyclopedia for emoji—and one reason, among other word-working, the blog has been less active in recent weeks.
Today, Americans celebrate their brave declaration of independence from British rule on July 4th, 1776 with plenty of red, white, and blue, the colors of its star-spangled banner.
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.
This week, US President Donald Trump’s policy of separating families seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border, well, separated our hearts. We’ve seen the cruel ironies of etymology on this blog before. The word separate, alas, is no exception.
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.
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.Morealarms 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.
A so-called caravanhas 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.