Category Archives: word meaning

More Linguistic Asymmetries

The English prefix un- comes directly from Old English (and shares a common Indo-European root with Latin in- and Greek a-) Prefixed to an adjective A, the resulting new word means ‘not A’ and can convey either positive or negative … Continue reading

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Happy Summer Solstice, NoHem!

Today is the summer solstice for the northern hemisphere — a consequence of the geometry of the sphere-with-a-tilted-axis that we call home in our solar system.  Today the sun will reach its highest point in the sky at (solar) noon, … Continue reading

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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


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There’s a commonly deployed linguistic device with a fancy Greek name — metonymy.  Metonymy is using an attribute or a part of something to refer to the thing itself. Here are some examples: All hands are to report to the … Continue reading

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What’s a Disney Ride?

Recently some friends were out sailing with us in Boston Harbor; as we sailed homeward we approached an extremely dark cloud — just one all by itself.  The light was dramatic behind it and under it the sea and outlines … Continue reading

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