TIME, emoji, and the unusual “with-” in “withdraw”

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.

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Smirking Face emoji (John Kelly/Emojipedia)

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Catch up with Mashed Radish

This past week has been a kind of High Holidays of etymological trivia.

March 14th marked Pi Day:

Pi Day inevitably makes us hungry for actual pie, apparently named for the piebald magpie.

March 15th marks the Ides of March, which has all bewaring, quoting Shakespeare, and wondering, “Why isn’t the ‘Ide‘ of March anyways?”

Then, we have St. Patrick’s Day, which I’m celebrating way out in Ballina, a charming river town in County Mayo, with some Irish language contributions to English (trousers!) and, ah, sure, some whiskey.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy working on some other projects I think you’ll enjoy—and find quite useful.

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Mashed Radish on Grammar Girl

Mashed Radish is taking the week off for the US holiday of Thanksgiving, though I may sprinkle in a little etymology here and there as time permits.

In the meantime, enjoy the latest episode of the award-winning educational podcast, Grammar Girl. Its host and creator, the incredible Mignon Fogarty, reads an article I wrote for Oxford Dictionaries on the many side words in the English language. The episode opens with the fascinating roots of bailiwick, to boot. 

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Talk, talked. Sing…sang?

What are all those letters we don’t say doing in the word knight? Why is talked the past tense of talk but sang is the past tense of sing? What’s up with m in whom and how come we eat beef but raise cow?

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(Image from Urbo.com)

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A few quick updates

First, a big thanks to everyone who has taken the Mashed Radish reader survey so far. I’ve received some incredibly valuable feedback so far. If you haven’t had a chance to complete it yet, please take just 5 minutes to do so. Your responses make a difference and mean a lot to me. You can find the survey here. In another week, I’ll be contacting the randomly selected winner who will get to pick the word for an upcoming post.

Second, a writing update. Earlier this month, I wrote a piece for Atlas Obscura about a mysterious statuette perched on many windowsills in Dublin, Ireland. If you’re not familiar with Atlas Obscura, check them out. A leading travel and exploration website, Atlas Obscura is “the definitive guide to the world’s wondrous and curious places.” In some ways, the site is like the travel equivalent of etymology, seeking out all the unusual and unexpected places, people, objects, and stories off the beaten track and hiding right around the corner. Their wide-ranging content takes a linguistic bent, too. Writer Dan Nosowitz has looked into some fascinating place-based language phenomena, like “Why Do Canadians Say ‘Eh’?” and “How a Fake British Accent Took Old Hollywood By Storm.”

Third, don’t forget to stop by Mental Floss, where I continue to contribute etymological trivia. Did you know rather originally meant “more rathe,” with rathe being a now-rare word meaning “quick” or “eager”? Or consider compute, which first meant “to prune back” in Latin. Swing by Nameberry, too, where I recently dove into the history of the name Oscar

Finally, I was delighted to guest-host another episode of the Shakespeare-on-film  podcast As We Like It. This time, we talked about Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 production of Hamlet. Our conversation was nearly – nearly – as epic as his film.

More etymology is coming your way, as always, on Friday.

m ∫ r ∫