A few years ago I worked with a guy who regularly said “that’s my jam” in reference to his favourite music, and even his non-musical interests and activities. The jam he spoke of was likely an expansion of the musical jam, a noun that also became a verb. First recorded in 1929 as jazz lingo, it referred to a short improvised piece of music by a band.
Foolery! This is where I ended up when the word history of fond took me back to foolish and then to fools (the good and the true). And then to the realisation that there is a whole swathe of foolery to consider.
Does it come from Latin’s follis (windbag, empty headed person) in the idiot sense?
Or folles (“puffed cheeks” of the buffoon) for shades of jester?
Or is the question moot because folles, here, is a secondary meaning of the plural of follis?
And don’t get me started on moot. Yet.
Æ is one of my favourite graphemes. We all have our favourites right?
My partiality for æ is partly for its aesthetic form (especially in lowercase) but mostly for its modern name, ash.
Why ash? When æ was incorporated into the Old English Latin alphabet, the letter was called æsc (ash tree) after the Anglo-Saxon futhorc rune it transliterated: ᚫ
Originally a short vowel between ‘a’ and ‘e’ = the ‘a’ in fan, æ was replaced by ‘e’ or ‘ee’ in the 13th century. Three centuries later it was reintroduced into English, for words taken from Latin with the diphthong ae, and Greek’s ai.
It has the full status of a letter in some alphabets including Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese. Lucky languages that they are, ae?
Welcome-home-husband-no matter-how-drunk-you-be is the kind of (apparently) common plant name that not only invites further research but insists on it. Continue reading “welcome-home-husband-however-drunk-you-be, n.”
Usually I like dogear-free pages but today I’m adjusting that rule. This secondhand “Concise Macquarie Dictionary” from 1982 has just a single folded down page in its entire body. And it is no dainty fold.
On closer examination it doesn’t mark just the page, it also directs readers’ attention to a particular word: Continue reading “mephistophelian, adj.”
Words and food combined in the most delicious way; this is the wonderful gift that made my week. A gift that also got me curious about the etymology behind it.
Not to be confused with second breakfast — though it often is — elevenses first appears in 1887 Continue reading “elevenses, n.”
Before smudged there was smouched (blotted, smutched). And before smooch there was smouch (kiss, or buss – kiss in a boisterous manner).
Better known as a billion these days, it came to us from the French; milli– (in million) + –ard (to form the noun). But its story is a flip-floppy one…
This Shorter English Oxford Dictionary is showing her age.
Nonillion exemplifies the post-million divergence of numerical terms on the scales once referred to as British (long scale) and American (short scale) systems.
Giving in to the growing local use of the American system, the UK officially adopted the short scale terms in 1974.
I don’t recall learning this in school but must admit that is a long while ago now and my memory is also on a short scale when it comes to numbers and math.
So, how to remember the difference for future reference? Continue reading “nonillion, n. and adj.”
Is it just a coincidence that every time I come across this elegant word I can’t remember its meaning?
Yet each time I look it up, I realise we’ve met before. And it wasn’t on sad occasions – as far as I can recall.
Continue reading “nepenthe, n”