It’s been five years of Mashed Radish. This calls for “punch.”

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?

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If the punch is Mashed Radish pink, sign me up.

Continue reading “It’s been five years of Mashed Radish. This calls for “punch.””

Some etymological news and updates from Mashed Radish

In lieu of a feature word origin today, I wanted to point you to some of my other etymological goings-on around the web. I’m very pleased to announce that I have two new series on the Oxford Dictionaries blog debuting this week.

Continue reading “Some etymological news and updates from Mashed Radish”

Mashed Radish reader survey

Survey ultimately comes from the Latin supervidere, “to oversee,” literally to “look over (a place).”

On that note, I want to know what you think about Mashed Radish. What do you like or dislike? What else would you be interested in seeing from the  blog?

So, I’ve put together a short survey. It’s only 10 questions and takes about 5 minutes of your time. You can even fill it out on your phone. Oh, and should you wish, you can be entered to pick the word for a future post.

I’m really honored to have so many loyal readers. Your feedback will mean a lot to Mashed Radish moving forward – and for bigger, better, and word-nerdier etymologies.

Again, you can complete the survey at this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/F8KHPHM

Thank you!

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More from Mashed Radish

Mashed Radish is off this week, enjoying some craic with family in town. I have been terribly remiss, though, in linking you to my other writing online.

Since the spring, I’ve been writing weekly on Slate about various language topics. Some recent pieces have included: How 80s Is the Slang in Stranger Things? and Branger. Debression. Oexit. Zumxit. Why Did Brexit Trigger a Brexplosion of Wordplay? Click here for much more.

I’ve also been writing for Mental Floss. You’ll get a big etymological fix on the likes of such pieces as The Origins of 19 ‘Skin’ Expressions. Click here for more.

If you’re new to the blog, you may not know that I’m also reading the complete works of William Shakespeare this year and writing about it. Check it out at Shakespeare Confidential.

And those who are familiar with this blog will know I contribute to Oxford Dictionaries and Strong Language, where I’ve had many pieces since I’ve last shared my writing there.

Mashed Radish will be back next week.

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Metymology? Mashed Radish turns three

Oh yeah: I missed a few important milestones recently.

Mashed Radish turned three earlier this month. Politics inspired quite a few posts – Donald Trump especially – this past year. While politics may divide us, a shared love of words certainly brings us together. Like animals, which also prompted quite a lot of writing. You know, I think this blog could definitely do with more animal posts.

I’ve also reached over 10,000 followers. Wow. Gosh. Thanks, everyone, for your continued – or new – interest, readership, comments, and support.

Speaking of support, I’ve a third milestone comping up which I’ll be sure not to miss: my second wedding anniversary. I really need to thank my wife for all the support she’s given and sacrifices (yes, etymologies have their costs) she’s made for this project.

Now, how’d the first two pass me by? Well, I moved to Dublin, for one. For another, my head’s been absolutely stuffed with Shakespeare, whose complete works I’ve been reading and writing about at Shakespeare Confidential. I’ve also been regularly contributing to Slate’s Lexicon ValleyStrong Language, and Oxford Dictionaries. Etymologies open doors to the past, as I like to say. And, if three years is any measure, to the future as well.

But I can’t sign off without a word origin, can I? So, how about a quick etymology of etymology?

Etymology

We actually have evidence of the word etymology in a Latin form in Old English, though we see it Anglicized around the late 1300s, early 1400s . English gets the word in part from French (ethimologie) and in part directly from Latin (etymologia). Latin, in turn, borrowed the word from the Greek ἐτυμολογία (etymologia). If you’ll allow me to jump over some intermediary derived forms, the Greek ultimately joins ἐτεός (eteos, “true”) and λόγος (logos, “word”). Some think the Greek eteos is related to the Old English soð (“truth”), which, if you’ve been reading your Shakespeare, you might recognize in soothsayer or the mild oath For sooth! 

Historically then, we can understand etymology as the analysis of a word on the basis of its literal, or true, meaning. We should be careful not to commit the etymological fallacy, however, which posits that only the original meaning of a word is its right sense. Wrong. Words change. That’s in part why I love etymology. But we don’t want to be too, too careful, because I think we can glean insights in those ancient meanings still relevant to us today – and because I wouldn’t have a blog with a third anniversary to mark!

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Flying, flap-eared pigs?

I wanted to point you to some other pieces I have around the web. You’re forewarned: Some strong language lies ahead.

A few weeks back, I had a post on the OxfordWords blog: Pigdoghog, and other etymologies from the farm.” As I note:

We’ve left the farm and have wandered into the woods to discover where some very basic and common animal words came from – fundamental words like dog and pig, which number among some of the first children learn to read, even say.

We just don’t really know where this group of everyday words comes from, which is nothing short of fascinating.

I also have two pieces up on Strong Language. The first is “When fucks fly.” In this post, I ask the big questions: “What exactly is a flying fuck? And why does this fuck fly?”

Today, I published a piece that grew out of my new project, Shakespeare Confidential. This piece, “Great Moments in Swearing: The Taming of the Shrew,” gives you, you flap-eared knave, some sweary tips:

So, if you’re looking for some choice words, take a page from Petruccio’s playbook: Add some color, er, choler. Just avoid this whole “taming” and “shrew” business.

Stay tuned for more etymology and, if you’re following Shakespeare Confidential, my post on The Taming of the Shrew.

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Introducing Shakespeare Confidential

So, I’ve started a new yearlong project. Shakespeare died in 1616. I’m going to read everything he wrote in 2016 and write about it.

I’m calling it Shakespeare Confidential. It’s going to be accessible, personal, and human, so don’t worry if Shakespeare feels Greek to you. You can find it – and follow it – at www.shakespeareconfidential.com and @bardconfidensh.

I will be continuing to blog about word origins here, of course. I imagine there will be some fruitful cross-pollination, too, as I’m tracking words of interest during my reading of the Bard’s corpus. Like froward. I read The Taming of the Shrew first for Shakespeare Confidential and this curious word features quite prominently.

If you enjoy my writing here, please do follow and share my new blog.

As always, I so appreciate your readership and fellow word nerdom. It’s what motivates me. That and a particularly juicy etymology, no doubt!

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Dos niños: Christmas, weather, and nursery words

What do El Niño and Christmas have in common? It’s not just the unseasonable weather much of the US is experiencing this holiday, though my drought-stricken state of California is getting a much needed White Christmas in the Sierras. No, this weather pattern and Christian holiday also share a crib, etymologically speaking.

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A common etymological crib. “El Niño.” Doodle by me.

El Niño

Spanish speakers will readily recognize el niño as “the child” or “the boy.” In the case of the proper noun El Niño, it’s a very special little boy, at least to Christians: El Niño de Navidad, the Christ Child.

But to many people who don’t speak Spanish, El Niño means some weird weather. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains it: “The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.”

But what does this have to do with baby Jesus? South Americans – and many sources specify Peruvian fishermen as early as the 1600s – noted the warm waters of the weather phenomenon occurring during December. Hence, the association between the weather event and Christmas.

Christmastime, then, can bring Dos Niños. 

Baby talk 

As for the origin of the Spanish noun niño (and its feminine form, of course, niña)? Etymologists are pretty sure it’s ultimately a baby or nursery word, expressing the noises babies first babble or the sounds parents and caretakers present to their children. Like mama and papa, which the excellent linguist John McWhorter recently had a fascinating piece on over at The Atlantic.

I think it’s neat  – if, of course, arbitrary, given the accidents of language and society – that two so very complex systems affecting so many millions of people across the globe – one meteorological and climatological, the other cultural and religious – share this little bit of baby talk: niño.

Well, it’s been another great year of word origins. Thanks, everyone, for your interest and support. I’m looking forward to another year ahead. It’s a presidential election year in the US, so I’m sure it’ll be a good one.

The Mashed Radish will be back in 2016. Happy Holidays!

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Some language, strong & “light,” on Slate’s Lexicon Valley

I am extremely happy to share that I have two posts up on Slate’s language blog, Lexicon Valley. Be advised: there is some strong language ahead.

One is a repost of a piece I did for Strong Language, “Something from nothing: A zero-fucks game.” As previously mentioned when I linked to it here, this post discusses an interesting innovation I’ve been hearing on an expression, giving zero fucks.

The other is a new piece and something of a change of pace for me. It’s a close reading of of Graham Greene’s “The End of the Party,” which I am certain is the most terrifying short story you haven’t read. Slate has titled it: “Graham Greene’s Vocabulary of Light and Dark Makes This the Most Terrifying Short Story You Haven’t Read.” 

Here’s a teaser:

For a story all about being afraid of the dark, the scariest thing in Graham Greene’s “The End of the Party” may just be his lexicon of light.

Greene may be best known for novels such as The Power and the Glory or his screenplay for The Third Man. Though a short, early, and lesser-known work, his 1929 “The End of the Party” still displays the craft that made him a giant of 20th-century English literature. Here, what is most masterful is the way Greene develops a subtle but eerie language of light to illuminate the enveloping and ineffable terror of his story’s dark. The effect is a chilling chiaroscuro in words.

Head over to Lexicon Valley to read more.

If you’re hungry for some word history while you’re there, Forrest Wickman has a timely post for today, Back to the Future Day: “Great Scott! Who was Scott? The Origin of Doc Brown’s Favorite Phrase, Explained.”

Look for a new post later this week.

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pissants & culprits

When I tell people I blog about etymology, the study of word origins, they often confuse it with entomology, the study of insects. For my latest contribution to Strong Language, this confusion can for once be forgiven: I follow the trail of pissant back to its etymological anthill. It turns out to be a bit stinky there. A little too coarse for you? Well, I class it up with some Chaucer. Just be careful where you place your hands. Head on over to the blog to read the piece, “Piss off, Aesop?” Be sure to check the latest from the blog’s other, very un-pissant writers.

Also, maybe you missed my piece on culprit on the Oxford Dictionaries blog. Oxford University Press has re-published it over at their site. Catch up and stay a while on the site; you’ll find some truly excellent writing there as well.

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