Recent Blog Posts

Over the past few days I managed to pack up all of my belongings into cardboard boxes, meticulously arrange them in a U-Haul truck, drive almost five hundred miles north, unload the truck, and then unpack everything. If nothing else, the ordeal made me think about process: the in between, […]

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David Barnett posted a lovely etymology of the word “hack” in today’s UK Guardian Book Blog. In it he chronicles the rise and fall of the word, with all its connotations from a horse to a paltry writer to a loud and proud reporter. Derived from the “hackney,” a horse-drawn […]

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Here’s to Friday, and to making it on the Lexiophile’s list of the Top 100 Language Blogs of 2009! Thanks to everyone who voted. Since it’s customary to raise a glass and toast in celebration, here is a language lovers list of the origins of common cocktails and spirits: Cocktail […]

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During summer, I can’t say no to a scoop or two of ice cream. So when Mark Dow’s latest Happy Days blog post, No Choice about the Terminology: On pleasure, perception and the language of ice cream came to my attention, I knew it was time to analyze the quintessential […]

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In honor of Bastille Day, I’ve decided to dally a bit in the history of one of my favorite French exports: French bread. Just a refresher, Bastille Day is a French national holiday celebrated every July 14 (quatorze juillet) to commemorate the Fête de la Fédération held on the first […]

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Here in America it seems like food trends come and go every twenty minutes or so. Is meat in or out? Do we like bread or bacon? Acai berries, or lemon juice and cayenne pepper cleanses? It seems futile to keep up with the Joneses sometimes. One craze that has […]

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Here is a little something to get the weekend started: a brief walk through the language of wine. The original nectar of the gods has a history – and therefore an etymology – that dates back to our ancient forbearers. Here you will find the sources of the popular names […]

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In his recent NY Times Op-Ed on Dignity, David Brooks stated that “the old dignity code has not survived modern life.” Brooks lists three examples of the absence of dignity in recent events: Mark Sanford’s press conference, reaction to Michael Jackson’s death, and Sarah Palin’s press conference. Two of those […]

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Most of us are familiar with the different types of learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. A distinctive sort of style, however, is the hallmark of internet phenomenon Marina Orlova — she uses sex appeal to teach etymology. Orlova, a 28-year-old Russian immigrant, is a philologist (a kind of linguist […]

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The word inauguration can be traced back to the early Roman Republic (510 BC – 27 BC). In the early Roman Republic, all major decisions, such as when to go to war, and who to appoint to positions of power were decided upon by Augurs. In Rome, an augur was […]

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