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 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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Letters, bones, & sides: etymology around the web

Waiting in long lines this Black Friday? Stuck in holiday traffic? Still recovering from a food coma? Need a little break from your family? Well, I’ve got you covered with some etymological entertainment in a few of my posts published around the web. Be advised: some strong language ahead.

Ever wonder what the A in fucking A stands for? Awesome? Asshole? As some Canadians joke, eh? Learn your sweary alphabet over at Strong Language with my piece, “What the fuck is the ‘A’ in ‘fucking A’?” Slate’s Lexicon Valley also published this piece.

The US Thanksgiving dinner offers so many delicious side dishes. So, too, the English language, with its many side words. For example, did you know that sideburns are named after an American Civil War general? Over at Oxford Dictionaries’ blog, go inside side with my post, “The many ‘sides’ of Thanksgiving…and the English language.”

Did you break a wishbone this US Thanksgiving holiday? This custom seems innocent enough, but the term may just have a naughtier past, if we look to merrythought, an earlier British term for this bone. Read more over at Strong Language (and Slate’s Lexicon Valley) in my “Merry thoughts, naughty bits: Putting the ‘bone’ in wishbones.”

Finally, if you’re new to my blog, you may enjoy my piece last year on the globe-gobbling origin of the word turkey.

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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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two years

Today, the Mashed Radish turns two. I think the blog is really growing up.

"Two." Doodle by @andrescalo.
“Two.” Doodle by @andrescalo.

My brother, Andrew, has given my words shape, line, texture, and color with his deft and delightful doodles. They’ve really added a lot personality, don’t you think? Thanks, brother! A number of my posts have become cross-posts, as I have been contributing to the OxfordWords blog at Oxford Dictionaries and Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. I hope that these posts have lead you to some new writers, blogs, and projects. The group at Strong Language is a tremendously talented bunch, no? It’s an honor to be writing alongside them. Speaking of honor: Oxford Dictionaries Online? Let’s just say about every post here begins with three letters: the OED.

While my writing has branched out through those two blogs, I think my writing here has matured, focusing on topical etymologies as my own small lens to think about current events–and using current events as a lens to think about words and language. Speaking of branching out, so have my readers here, reaching close to 5,000 followers. Each like, each comment, each compliment, each question–each is a shared act of curiosity, of word nerd-dom, of the little, electrifying huh‘s and ah-ha‘s and I’ll-be‘s that make me excited to continue into year three. There is a lot of choice out there today. There is a lot to read and enjoy. There is a lot of noise competing for our attention. So, whether you are scrolling through a new post while waiting in line at the post office or reading it over a cup of coffee at your computer before kicking work into gear, thank you.

Above all, however, I want to thank my wife (and blog widow), Amanda, whom I never give enough credit for supporting me and my writing.

Year two 

Below, you can read through the list of words, roots, or topics I covered in year two. You get something of a buzzword, catchword, or keyword “news reel” for May 2014-15. I’ve linked each word to its post:

*gno- (part i)
*gno- (part ii)
*sekw- (part i)
*sekw- (part ii)
amnesty & coyote
rockets & missiles

comedy & tragedy

Bongo, Bongo
punctuation (part i)
Lexicon Valley
strategy & target
drubbing & shellacking
everyday Quechua: Coke, jerky, & DNA
ciao, slave!
Strong Language
twelve words of Christmas
“big goddamn car”
language (for your ears)
Davy Crockett in a hot-air balloon
hawk vs. patriot
Mardi Gras
swear jars & springtime
Background checks: everyday words with legal origins
Buddha, eBay, & ombudsmen
I have eaten ‘crap now’
errand & racy


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