Taking “taxes” to the etymological task (repost)

With House Republicans unveiling sweeping tax cuts in a bill this week, I figured it was a good time to repost this piece on the etymology of tax from 2014. Over three years later, I still find it incredible that tax comes from the same Latin root that gives us task, taste, and taxi.

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“King-size”: A Bite-size History of an America-size Word

On Halloween, there’s no disputing that the king-size candy bar is the crown jewel of trick-or-treating loot. But those extra ounces of chocolatey goodness don’t just measure our taste in sweets: The history of the adjective king-size also reveals America’s changing appetites and attitudes.
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Book review: The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities by Paul Anthony Jones

He’s done it again.

On the heels of his delightful Accidental Dictionary, Paul Anthony Jones—the word-grubbing mastermind behind the wildly popular @HaggardHawks online–is out with another collection of weird and wonderful words. This one’s called A Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities: A Yearbook of Forgotten Words (Elliott & Thompson, 2017). The publisher kindly sent me a copy for review.

This compendium truly lives up to its name. Cracking open its beautifully crafted aged-teal and gilded cover is like peeking into an old, mysterious cabinet—a Wunderkammer (June 7, “a collection of oddities”) tucked away at the back of an antique shop, eccentric museum, or attic. On each day of his yearbook, Jones treats you to an unusual word, like some curio of yore, and in each entry, he dusts it off and holds it up to the light, telling a story about the word.

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(Elliott & Thompson)

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Getting up to speed with Mashed Radish

A few updates are long overdue.

Last Sunday, I had a piece in the UK’s Sunday Express defending the much and wrongly maligned like. Like, you know, like. As I argue:

Like isn’t a sign that we’re dumbing down English. It’s a sign of just how, like, sophisticated our language is.

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The word “harassment” likely begins as a hunting cry

With allegations against Harvey Weinstein mounting, many more women are coming forward to accuse others—from prominent figures like director James Toback to everyday men divulged in the powerful #MeToo stories—of sexual assault and harassment. These men, as we might say, are pigs. But if we look to origin of the word harass, we might say they are dogs.

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Dirty, rotten “sepia”

A mix of Hurricane Ophelia and Saharan dust storms turned the sun an ominous red over much of the UK earlier this week. It also caused the sky to look an eerie yellow or, as many commented, sepia. And this fancy color word, as it turns out, has a very cuttle-y, and very un-cuddly, origin. 

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A somewhat sepia-colored sepia. (Wikimedia Commons)

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From “to” to “too”

A trend has spread on social media following the many and disturbing allegations of sexual assault and rape against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein: me too, which tens of thousands women are posting to express that they, too, have been assaulted or harassed.

The little word, too, so simply yet powerfully bringing attention to how pervasive, and pernicious, sexual violence against women is. For today’s post, let’s put the etymological spotlight on it.

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“Too”: moving in the right direction. (Pixabay)

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“Superstition”: an unlucky etymology?

It’s Friday the 13th—a day of bad luck, if you are superstitious person, and a great occasion to look at the origin of the word superstition.

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Got that #FridayFeeling? (Pixabay)

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“Stunt”: a real “stumper” of an etymology

After some players took a knee during the national anthem, US Vice President Mike Pence abruptly left a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers this Sunday. But many aren’t seeing his move as a un-dignifying departurebut a political stunt, a word whose ultimate origins are, shall we say, a bit stunted.

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Stunt‘s long jump back to sports. (Pixabay)

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Under the etymological “gun”

Gun. It’s such a cruelly simple word for a terrorizing technology that is senselessly and needlessly claiming too many American lives—59 alone, as we witnessed in the horrific massacre in Las Vegas this week. Where does this deadly word derive from?

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