Monthly Archives: September 2010

Sweet as Sugar


My sister Alexandra reports that her linguist friend once told her that, of the two dozen languages he knew, the word for sugar appears to have the same root in all of them. Here are the terms for sugar in … Continue reading

Posted in etymology, social context of language, word borrowing | 2 Comments

Word Relics


Today’s word of the day is fortnight. When I first heard this word as a kid, I immediately concluded it had something to do with forts and battlements, some length of time during which soldiers of kings did something or … Continue reading

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Folk Numbers


Mathematics is the most rigorous branch of knowledge. But leave it to people — and language — to make even maths folksy. (Maths is the British informal term for mathematics. Isn’t it nice? It preserves the final ‘s’, unlike the … Continue reading

Posted in word meaning, word play | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Go and Went


If you hear someone say ‘I goed’ and you are a fluent speaker of English, you probably assume it’s a child in the midst of learning their native tongue, albeit with a few over-generalizations of word-formation rules, or an adult … Continue reading

Posted in language change, Semantics | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Word Jumbles #8


BOULED CRIOLENAP PITRUN RESTORO MYACTAIL Solutions posted tomorrow on Answers

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Freewheeling Expression


Do printed dictionaries still matter? I doubt most people use them much nowadays to check spellings — spellcheckers are nearly ubiquitous in word-processing software of all types. There are also myriad sources for usage examples, including many online resources that … Continue reading

Posted in Word Formation, Word Usage, writing | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Place Names


It has long been observed that the words for places tend to survive a long time; even when much of the lexicon of a language has otherwise changed or been replaced. Even when one group of people conquers another, the … Continue reading

Posted in names, social context of language | Tagged , | 3 Comments