Comments by qroqqa

  • The closest approach to a black hole. From Greek bothros "hole". Coined by Sterl Phinney of Caltech.

    March 26, 2015

  • Okay, stupid (and rhetorical) question, it's been a while, how do I list a word I just looked up? I want a list button or a list of lists, and I can't see either. (I have a List button that takes me to a list of lists containing it, but as none contain it yet, this is an exercise in frustration and circularity.)

    (Later. Boy, was that difficult. And the next question is, how come it's been listed once, commented on once, and favourited once, when I'm the only person who knows about it so far, and I didn't favourite it? Or are there other mysterious buttons lurking in the undergrowth? Grrr . . . goes to look . . .)

    January 26, 2015

  • Early attempts at atomic bombs faced the problem that the uranium was so heavy it dropped out; this problem was called fallot. The remaining bomb would trigger, but exploded like a firework into a few fitful stars, leaving fa**ot.

    December 4, 2014

  • An emaciated sea-elephant.

    I like two facts about this: (i) English has a word for an emaciated sea-elephant; and (ii) the people who thought it was a good product name didn't consult the OED.

    November 4, 2014

  • Also related of course are finance (from the infixed present stem), flense ("taking your cut"), fleece (taking someone else's cut), please (what you say when you do: Grimm's Law applies), police (who they get when you do: epenthesis commonly trails in the wake of Grimm), pulse (which goes up when they chase you: compensatory loss of segment), purse (how could you miss this one?), and pence (in the purse – and here we are back at Grimm's Law, or Crim's Law as it's now known).

    October 2, 2014

  • Don't write off to the OED with a 1909 antedating, though: it's 1923. The Google Books top date is wrong. If you scan for various years in it you find current events of 1922 and January 1923, and a scheduled event in September 1923 is a long way off.

    September 23, 2014

  • This just screams folk etymology. A search on Google and Google Books for "my petuti" and "horse's petuti" show the spelling 'petuti' only goes back to about 2002. "Horse's patootie" can be found in Don Ryan's 1930 novel A Roman Holiday (a considerable antedating to the OED's 1959 in this sense).

    It is not clear how we get from the slightly earlier "hot patootie" and "sweet patootie" to a buttockial* patootie, but petunias don't seem to be involved.

    * there must be a better word than that. Natal?

    September 22, 2014

  • If looking at the moon you're me,
    Inspired to rhyme, soon you see
    There's a need for defending
    The long vowels ending
    Borrowed words like 'lunulae'.

    August 28, 2014

  • Loopin held up the camera triumelephantly.
    My Immortal

    July 25, 2014

  • When I coin a word,
    However absurd,
    The letters are sequential,
    And that is referential:
    No typo occurred.

    July 9, 2014

  • hotrus? A good word, a perfectly cormulent word in fact, but not the Latin for garden.

    July 8, 2014

  • A silicate perovskite that is the most abundant mineral in the lower mantle, and therefore apparently in the Earth: newly named in honour of physicist Percy Bridgman.
    Our planet's most abundant mineral now has a name on, 18 June 2014

    June 19, 2014

  • Of courfe they faid it. The examples in the right-hand column include a ftirring fermon by the late Reverend (and Pious) Samuel Davies, who afsures us:

    But there are two words, which by a fynecdoche are often ufed in fcripture to fignify all his futferings of every kind, from firfl to laft; viz. liis blood and his crofs.

    Now clearly 'liis' was an aberration; perhaps the Devil had pofsefsed him at that moment and he was unable to think clearly. I don't think we fhould take 'liis' ferioufly here. But his firfl futfering: what a fynecdoche!

    June 3, 2014

  • Not olko- but oiko-, "home".

    June 25, 2013

  • It is aided in this deception by being a master of disguise. The crow appears as a small, nondescript bird who passes unnoticed as it cases other birds' nests, selects a suitable one, and goes into labour, spurning epidurals and the machine that goes ping! in favour of a low-key delivery of its eggs, which typically come in clutches of six to eight. The gentes or tribes of crow are classified by the pattern of their egg: paisley, batik, or piñata.

    One crow in San Diego Zoo passed the last twelve years of its life as a peacock, and the deception was only discovered on autopsy.

    June 6, 2013

  • Put not youre handes in youre hosen youre codware for to clawe.
    —wise advice; source given by the OED as:
    a1475 J. Russell Bk. Nurture (Harl. 4011) in Babees Bk. (2002) i. 135

    May 20, 2013

  • Of unknown etymology. The second element might be related to the Irish for "fire", or it might not. The OED of 1887 finished up its etymology with this pungent and Rabelaisian criticism, words I fear will not make it through when it's revised for the third edition:

    The rubbish about Baal, Bel, Belus, imported into the word from the Old Testament and classical antiquity, is outside the scope of scientific etymology.

    May 14, 2013

  • To break out of the circle of the Innenwelt into the Umwelt generates the inexhaustible quadrature of the ego's verifications.—Lacan

    May 13, 2013

  • Possibly unrelated to the real word floruit, indicating when someone flourished, and used when their birth and death dates are not known.

    May 7, 2013

  • The vagaries of attestation. The 2nd edition OED has a line from Love's Labour's Lost, dated 1588, as its first use: 'Once more Ile read the Ode that I haue writ'. Then follows a 1589 quotation from Puttenham.

    The 3rd edition has corrected the L.L.L. date to 1598, thus making Puttenham an antedate. (And it notes the 1598 spelling was Odo, changed to Ode in the First Folio.) It now also has a 1579 quotation from Spenser, plus a 1538 dictionary entry—which shouldn't really count, as it's not a use.

    And why are my italic tags not coming out, eh?

    April 26, 2013

  • I bet I find it more arousing than you do.

    March 20, 2013

  • unfortunatly . . .

    March 8, 2013

  • The rest of us are all curious, nay agog, about when you use this supposed word.

    March 6, 2013

  • Cepheid variable, gravastar, MACHO

    March 5, 2013

  • Informally dubbed by researchers the 'Genesis Death Sandwich', this pattern offers the first clear example of this common rhetorical structure being used in the text describing the creation of the universe.
    New analysis of Genesis reveals 'death sandwich' literary theme, Phys.Org, 20 Feb. 2013

    February 20, 2013

  • What on earth did you think they put in them? Prime cuts of delicious free-range, organic, rare breed, heritage beef, grass-fed, Eton-educated, humanely slaughtered, dry-aged and hand-ground by fairies with a pinch of pink Murray River salt and a twist of black pepper?
    —Giles Coren in The Times, on the discovery of horsemeat, or indeed any meat, in Tesco Everyday Value Burgers

    February 19, 2013

  • Czech for "he became silly". Alternative form zblbnul. Masculine past participle of zblbnout "become silly", from blb "fool". Thus also zblbla "she became silly", zblbl jsem "I (m.) became silly" etc.

    February 13, 2013

  • I should say, sometimes there’s a distinction made between languist and linguist. A languist is somebody who can speak a lot of languages. A linguist is somebody who is interested in the nature of language.—from an interview with Chomsky. And a word I'd never heard of till now.

    February 11, 2013

  • (1) Also the actual Hobbitish word rendered in English by mathom.

    (2) Wordnik thinks this is an error for last and is supplying misinformation accordingly.

    February 8, 2013

  • A Corsican ewe's milk cheese covered with rosemary, juniper berries, and chillis. *slurp*

    February 8, 2013

  • True dat. A lesser-known but equally interesting fact is that ancient Macrobia was named for its diet. The royal family having been particularly impressed by the fare at a macrobiotic restaurant they had patronized, they granted it a royal warrant, ordered that all their subjects should eat macrobiotic, and changed the kingdom's name to Macrobia. The country lasted until it was swallowed up by a coalition of neighbouring kingdoms Vegetaria, Atkinsia, and Eggandbeansia.

    February 8, 2013

  • According to Investopedia, unitranche debt is: A type of debt that combines senior and subordinated debt into one debt instrument; it is usually used to facilitate a leveraged buyout. Whatever that means. And it's all over the Interthingummy, so why hasn't it appeared here before?

    February 8, 2013

  • According to Google, "Dart can be compiled to JavaScript, so you can use it for web apps in all modern desktop and mobile browsers. Our JavaScript compiler generates minimal code thanks to tree-shaking." —Google trumpets Dart release as first stable version in news

    A computing term I've never encountered before: looking through the code and eliminating things that are never used.

    October 18, 2012

  • The problem is that two 'definitions' found on the Internet are mutually inconsistent. That's got nothing to do with what a clade is. Clades are defined by descent; there's no actual need for any two members of a clade to share any particular inheritance. A clade is a species together with all its descendants.

    November 21, 2011

  • 'Niche market', however, doesn't show what part of speech it is. It is natural to suppose 'niche' is a noun in that phrase (as in 'stock market', 'bear market'). It is the ability to be modified by adverbs that shows it has (for some people) become a noun.

    November 14, 2011

  • According to the new reverse dictionary thingy, the definition of this word contains the word 'columbium'.

    June 22, 2011

  • This name was once briefly suggested for nobelium, which may be enough to scupper it with the IUPAC.

    June 22, 2011

  • There's at least one French/English pair of surnames: Boileau = Drinkwater. Then there are the Rabelaisian names that get translated with the same structure: Baisecul = Kissebreech. Do-nothing is a translation of the old French fainéant kings.

    June 16, 2011

  • What a silly word. Isn't this what we standard English speakers call the paxwax? And q.v. for alternatives: 'Also called paxywaxy, packwax, faxwax, fixfax, and whit-leather.' I bet that last one is made up.

    June 14, 2011

  • Apparently another new term for RSI and its little friends.

    June 10, 2011

  • There are two, surely: an abrupt one in crash, crack, crunch, crumple, crinkle and a slow one in creep, crawl. I suppose creak, crumble could partake of both.

    Surprisingly, cranberry might be relatable to these after all, if its etymon crane has any kind of abrupt cry.

    June 10, 2011

  • [José Carlos Meirelles] is a "sertanista" – the name given to a select few people who scour the Amazon jungle is search of isolated peoples and then set up a remote outpost to monitor and protect them from contact with "civilisation".
    Al Jazeera, 24 June 2008

    June 10, 2011

  • Zero, a Word sometimes us'd especially among the French, for a Cipher or Nought (0).
    Phillips's New World of Words, 1706

    June 8, 2011

  • 'Candid' does not mean "white". It comes from a Latin word meaning "white" or "candid".

    June 2, 2011

  • Actually the pronouns mine and thine do, but kine doesn't. The -ine is the Germanic form of the adjective ending more familiar from Latin-derived equine, porcine, etc. Greek also had it*; crystalline is the only English inheritance of this that I can recall.

    Kine on the other hand is a double plural: first by umlaut alone, ku: becoming ky:, then picking up the -n plural.

    * Hm, apparently the -i- was short here, so perhaps not the same ending after all.

    June 1, 2011

  • Plus archy, Latin for . . . oh, wait. So it'd be a paedarchy or tecnarchy then.

    May 27, 2011

  • I read this on Wordnik yesterday, and didn't understand what oroboros had taken so long to tumble to. Wished oroboros had included a definition. Looked at it today . . .

    May 26, 2011

  • Trium (genitive as in trium virorum) does seem to be an error that has crept in. Older books pretty consistently favour trinum. (Tritium in Google Books is a scanning error for italic trinum.) One source gives ternarium, which would I suppose be synonymous, as in the adverbs trini/terni. Annoyingly, Perseus is now filtered at work so I can't do the proper checking.

    May 23, 2011

  • I thought BrE was pretty neutral about all the other -ward(s) words, and was surprised to see how much 'forward' preponderates over 'forwards': about 10 in 1 in both Ngrams and the BNC.

    Examination of the BNC shows that much of this can be put down to common constructions like 'look forward to', 'put forward' (a proposal etc.), where only the one is possible.

    May 20, 2011

  • The current AmE preferred form of 'towards', and has been since 1900, as illustrated strikingly on Google Ngram Viewer. Other -ward(s) words don't have anything like so dramatic a history.

    In BrE it's always been very much a minor variant, but it may have started to come into regular use in recent years.

    May 19, 2011

  • Full of termites and gradually falling into the large pit next door, but you won't have to worry too long, as it's in line for compulsory acquisition for a freeway next year.

    May 16, 2011

  • Not sigmatic, that is not formed with sigma: said of Greek aorists and futures. In the case of aorists also called second aorist.

    May 3, 2011

  • From English back + German schön "beautiful", weirdly compounded in Japanese. As a (supposedly) foreign word it is written in katakana.

    April 27, 2011

  • Actually Maltese ċaw, pronounced basically the same as the Italian ciao, its origin.

    April 27, 2011

  • Formed with a kappa, in the Greek perfect tense. Compare the sigmatic aorist and future.

    April 1, 2011

  • It's not plurale tantum, as it readily occurs as both singular and plural in syntax; however, the two forms are the same, like sheep and aircraft.

    This problem hadn't occurred to me before, but I agree in theory that singular species's is possible. However, we use apostrophe-only with certain singular words, such as classical names ending in multiple sibilants: Xerxes', Rameses', Jesus'. It's the difficulty of pronouncing the extra syllable that recommends the apostrophe-only, as it would in the narcissus' petals.

    March 30, 2011

  • None of the below. ['hærəst], with the vowel of hat, not hair.

    March 21, 2011

  • -onym- "name", rather

    March 21, 2011

  • Actually the Hebrew begins with the consonant `ayin.

    March 4, 2011

  • No occurrences in BNC (571 for demolition).

    February 17, 2011

  • A more impressive term than pork pie.

    February 15, 2011

  • I wonder could it be unlisted because it's a misspelling of physiognomy? What relation -gamy "marriage" might have to the art of studying the face is unclear to this little black duck.

    January 28, 2011

  • Is it contrapposto you're after? That at least is close.

    January 27, 2011

  • Whole auks stuffed into a seal carcass and left to ferment. (How can I be the first to even look this up?)

    January 25, 2011

  • Previously almost invariably transitive; since 1960 however the construction 'befitting of' has greatly increased in popularity. Although Google Books still has it as only minute in numbers by 2000, today's Web shows it coming on very strong.

    This is the first comment I have made here using information from the Ngram Viewer.

    January 25, 2011

  • zeroize and Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz

    January 24, 2011

  • It is sad that Albert Ghiorso died (26 Dec. 2010) without seeing an element officially named after him, as Glenn Seaborg saw seaborgium. Ghiorsium was informally proposed for ununoctium after its claimed discovery by Berkeley, but the claim had to be withdrawn after fraud was discovered.

    January 24, 2011

  • Today's aisle/isle distinction is recent, and aisle owes its silent S to isle. Although ultimately from Latin ala "wing", the church word was from about 1600 confused with or merged with isle, and often so spelt. Some time in the 1700s the hybrid spelling aisle came into use, and seems to have become established by about 1800.

    In this same time period its use was extended from the side passages, the 'wings', to the central passage, the nave. Some complain that couples walking up the aisle are really walking up the nave, but the usage is long established now.

    January 24, 2011

  • To give more detail, from -grad-s- in medial position; where the -s forms some perfects and supines. This assimilated to -grass- in the Old Latin period or earlier. In Old Latin stress was initial, and unstressed a before two consonants became e (so also non-initial morpheme -ject- from jac- "throw").

    January 20, 2011

  • Not related to Latin id, despite the apparently obvious connexion via Grimm's Law. The Old English was hit, the h being lost in Middle English. This makes it related to he, both from a pre-Germanic *k- root (not as far as I know represented in Latin1). The neuter ending -t is however cognate with the -d of Latin id, quid, illud etc.

    1. Unless it's the deictic -c(e) of hic, sic.

    January 20, 2011

  • Term used in the CGEL for the clause that can be equated to a dummy subject 'it', e.g.

    It is a mistake to eat eclairs in bed.

    In most cases it might have been the subject instead:

    To eat eclairs in bed is a mistake.

    It has been extraposed from subject position to the end of the clause, after other complements. This distinguishes it from the displaced subject of a dummy 'there' clause, which is merely displaced past the verb:

    There are three men in the garden.

    December 20, 2010

  • Unable to face the OED's new website, I'm going to guess that a noun 'unrule' is attested first (cf. extant 'misrule').

    December 9, 2010

  • Having read XKCD first, I didn't realize that arsenic-based life really has been discovered. It's a bacterium that can replace much of its phosphorus with arsenic. (via 3quarksdaily)

    December 3, 2010

  • Petulantly actually, unless Stephenie's proof-readers were the same parents who named her.

    December 2, 2010

  • Two different morphologies and pronunciations. I found a real example of its use somewhere, over the weekend. I wish I could remember where.

    November 29, 2010

  • Even in the side streets there was evidence of the new régime; twice they were obliged to shelter as police lorries thundered past them laden with glaucous prisoners.
    —Evelyn Waugh, Scoop

    November 16, 2010

  • The difference is detectable. A voiceless consonant significantly shortens a preceding vowel, so the vowel of [aɪs] is shorter than that of [flaɪ]. The difference is retained in compounds.

    November 8, 2010

  • A stern of ships, a light of fires, a jar of doorknobs, a maze of wonders, none of them count.

    October 12, 2010

  • The reason this works is that the second player beats the first to whatever sequence the first chooses. If the first chose HTH, that begins HT, so any second-player strategy XHT has a 1 in 2 chance of winning one round before HTH comes up. (Rather than the naive 1 in 8 chance of waiting for one or the other triple to turn up.)

    You choose your X to make sure it's not symmetric: that the first player hasn't got the same advantage over your sequence. Their choice ends in TH, so you mustn't let yours begin with that. So choose HHT, not THT.

    October 10, 2010

  • Real one, cos I saw it last night on a placard; possible a London local paper: Mental health cuts fears.

    October 7, 2010

  • The first recorded use of the term is from Mrs Radcliffe's Romance of the Forest (1791):

    Above the vast and magnificent portal of this gate arose a window of the same order, whose pointed arches still exhibited fragments of stained glass, once the pride of monkish devotion.

    This clearly can't be the first occurrence; but anyway, what did they call it for centuries before that?

    October 7, 2010

  • A potatoe with roots at both ends.
    —A Northern word, from Grose's Provincial Glossary

    October 5, 2010

  • Gretna Green by piggyback, alternating. A roll or two of toilet paper for the bride's dress, and the groom could wallow in a pool of black mud and let it dry. Half a packet of Mr Kipling's Battenberg cakes on a knitting needle. Keep the crumbs to throw.

    October 4, 2010

  • I too am a red-throated loon when I've got a few sherbets inside me, and I want to pick a fight with this posing Inuit upstart. What a ridiculous-looking word.

    October 2, 2010

  • 'Thot plickens' has been looked up 71 times. I know who one of those is; I'm curious about the other seventy.

    October 2, 2010

  • actually Ospedale

    October 1, 2010

  • The usual term, I thought, was p-brane for a p-dimensional brane.

    September 30, 2010

  • Cold, dead, bony fish corpses in a grey jelly. I spat out my first mouthful and threw the rest away.

    September 29, 2010

  • They infest its weak land;
    Fatten, hide slugs, infestate.
    —Jon Silkin, 'Dandelion'. The word is not in the OED.

    September 28, 2010

  • Also a surprising etymology, because of the vowel change. The Old Latin rule for unstressed vowels would give incelc- from calc-. Then the dark l rounds and backs and raises the vowel (as in the set velle, volo, vult).

    September 28, 2010

  • It sounds more fun than the mercury we all played with as kids before we saw the shadow demonstration of the fumes rising up.

    September 28, 2010

  • [< Warlpiri pintupi, probably < Pintupi pintupi, an impolite expletive.]
    —The OED's intriguing etymology. What expletive and how impolite? Enquiring minds want to know.

    September 27, 2010

  • A bank has provided a trade finance loan to the Ghana Coca Board, it says here. I wish I could leave that uncorrected.

    September 24, 2010

  • Oh, a queen can ork, yes, of course. A queen can ork at a king. Or a cow. If a cow strayed onto the field. You could probably set it up so that both queens are co-orkers.

    September 18, 2010

  • Of course not. A bilby is not a quokka.

    This word seems the logical progression of a series denoting how many pieces a chess piece is attacking at once: quork, trork, bork, mork, and the harmless nork. More boards and new rules are required to achieve the higher-dimensional possibilities: hork, sork, ork, eeyork, and dork.

    September 17, 2010

  • Composed of lamazi "beautiful" + suffix -a "is" (equivalent to the full verb aris).

    September 14, 2010

  • გვფრცქვნი - Georgian for "you are peeling us". The prefix gv- is the first person plural; I don't know how the rest divides.

    September 7, 2010

  • deda: Georgian for "mother"

    September 3, 2010

  • ts'q'ali: Georgian for "water". The first vowel drops out when further inflectional vowels are added: ts'q'lebi "waters".

    September 3, 2010

  • dzalian: Georgian for "very"

    September 2, 2010

  • Sakartvelo: Georgian for "Georgia"

    September 2, 2010

  • ati: Georgian for "ten". In the reduced form t- it is part of the numerals 11 to 19: for example, t-ert-met'i from ert-i "one".

    September 2, 2010

  • Rickety dwellings of undoubted fashion, but of a capacity to hold nothing comfortably except a dismal smell, looked like the last result of the great mansions' breeding in-and-in; and, where their little supplementary bows and balconies were supported on thin iron columns, seemed to be scrofulously resting upon crutches.
    —Dickens, Little Dorrit, ch. 27

    August 27, 2010

  • One of two words surviving in modern English with the abstract noun formative suffix -red, the other being kindred. This is not the same suffix as in hundred.

    August 26, 2010

  • An often boisterous gathering of captains of whaling ships in the cabin of one of them.

    One of the more specialized words in English, I think. Etymology: the much more familiar mallemaroking.

    August 26, 2010

  • The small protective object under a mug or the like gets its name via an earlier meaning (unknown to me but perhaps not obsolete everywhere): a tray for decanters, so that they can 'coast' or go round the table.

    August 26, 2010

  • The modern meanings of the noun and verb are not related in the obvious way. Latin costa meant "side" (including in particular "rib"), and originally in English as in French its descendant was applied to the sides of various things. In English the noun came to be practically restricted to the side of the sea, the sea-coast.

    One French meaning "hill-side" was adopted locally in North America for a snowy or icy slope that could be slid down on a sled, and the act of doing so. Though the verb 'coast' had previously meant various things related to the ordinary noun, such as "abut, border" or "travel round the shore", the verb now surviving derives from the act of sliding unpowered down a hill.

    August 26, 2010

  • On the contrary; I would have thought a god-botherer was normally one who bothers other people, e.g. me, with their unwanted beliefs.

    August 26, 2010

  • On the other side of the world,
    you pass the moon to me,
    like a loving cup,
    or a quaich.
    —Carol Ann Duffy, 'World'

    August 20, 2010

  • I don't think so. Rather, we use the word fillet, as in fillet of beef, where AmE uses or might use filet. In the one expression where we do definitely writefilet we pronounce it in French fashion, ˈfɪleɪ, namely filet mignon ˈfɪleɪ ˈmɪnjɒ~. There is a stress difference: BrE ˈfɪleɪ, AmE fɪˈleɪ.

    August 18, 2010

  • [Organization] has expertise in moth residential and commercial development.

    —text I'm proofing. 'Tis pity to change it.

    August 12, 2010

  • Or exocentric verb-object compounds.

    August 12, 2010

  • The Latin sidus, sider- is "star", but the Greek sidêr- is "iron". The genuinely Greek-derived word for divination by the stars would be 'astromancy'.

    August 9, 2010

  • The idiom that wasn't. I was all poised to google for "number on choice", thinking perhaps it was a number as in "a nice little number", and on reflection, on making or having a choice . . . when I realized it was all just a typo and a missing hyphen.

    August 6, 2010

  • Lunolatry?? Who makes up these ridiculous words?

    August 4, 2010

  • Same as heliolatry except very badly formed.

    August 4, 2010

  • In addition to the obvious use in auctioneering, this term is also used by the London Stock Exchange for 'the Exchange’s middle price (“the hammer price”) of the relevant securities immediately prior to the time at which the default was declared'.

    July 30, 2010

  • As a verb coordination, this string behaves normally: The police stopped and searched ten people. As a nominal however, it is a compound rather than a coordination: They performed ten stop and searches. (*'Stops and searches' just doesn't sound right.)

    July 29, 2010

  • In a legal context (rare): said of a junior barrister acting in a case on their own, that is not led by a QC.

    July 29, 2010

  • Girl Scout beaver traps upset activists

    July 23, 2010

  • Impact assessment seems a perfectly normal kind of assessing. You can also study, evaluate, judge, or prepare for something that will came about in the future.

    July 21, 2010

  • Unlikely. 'Iterate' is only rarely used to mean "reiterate" (and many of the Google hits for "iterated that" are from Indian sites). In normal use 'iterate' and 'reiterate' have completely different meanings.

    July 20, 2010

  • "Spray to inunction the partition slightly treat to fuck the empress to with the Beat to whet."—Victor Mair discusses this charming Chinglish at Language Log.

    July 14, 2010

  • There's an uncorrected alphabetic copy at the ARTFL Project, so errors can be picked up by eye: spelling mistakes (most obviously, those out of alphabetic order), and tag errors for bold, italic, and indentation. The verb 'incase' is on Page 742, and subsequent pages show misspelt forms of 'incestuous' and 'incidental'. Slow going, but rich pickings.

    July 13, 2010

  • Some Web copies of Webster 1913 are based on a scanning with numerous errors. Other copies are from a better (or perhaps corrected) scanning; and one of those shows that the definition here originally belonged (i.e. in the 1913 print) to two-word 'in case'.

    July 13, 2010

  • I am disappointed to learn that 'chagrin' = "irritation" is now believed not to come from the Turkish for "horse's bum". I do hope the OED find the old story is true when they get round to revising C.

    July 8, 2010

  • 'On' theatres?

    July 8, 2010

  • Or in some grassy lane unbosom all
    From even-blush to midnight
    —R. Browning, Paracelsus

    July 7, 2010

  • Pronunciation oddity: the first syllable is long. You'd expect it to be short as in department, developmental. I thought this might be a recent development, but the OED only gives the pronunciation with i:.

    July 7, 2010

  • Back-formation from grovelling.

    July 2, 2010

  • Origin of the word grovel, by back-formation. It was originally an adverb formed of an obsolete word meaning "prone position" (spellings ranging over gruff, groffe, grufe etc.) plus an adverb formative -ling related to the suffix of headlong, sidelong, along.

    July 2, 2010

  • A newcomer to the pronoun system, only arising around 1600. It does not occur in the Authorized Version of the Bible, for example, which continues to use the transitional form thereof.

    July 2, 2010

  • Newly-named extinct genus of whales, created for a 12 million year old fossil resembling a sperm whale with large teeth, Leviathan melvillei.
    BBc science news, 1 July 2010

    July 1, 2010

  • HI Mr Hector, we also too like natvie United States-speakers visit our website making the innocent friends interested in many things such as like dog poo, Ponzi schemes, being hauled off to jail, So keep listening to at the door.

    June 30, 2010

  • This is actually chhertum; a former spelling of it was chetrum.

    June 29, 2010

  • ... but he was not a pawn on any chessboard of Mr Penicuik's making; and, for he was a gamester, he would have forgone every penny of that considerable fortune rather than have obeyed such a summons as he had received.
    —Georgette Heyer, Cotillion, ch. 12

    A highly unusual instance of a phrase beginning with causal for preceding its main clause. It is probably only possible here (to the questionable extent that it is possible) because it's a supplement inside an expanded clause, namely and he would have forgone... We could perhaps insert this supplement at other non-initial points in the clause too:

    and he would, for he was a gamester, have forgone...

    That is, although it appears to wholly precede the non-expanded clause he would have forgone..., its appearance is actually licensed by its being embedded in a higher clause. Or is it? Could we, could Georgette Heyer, with no more than the same oddness or archaism of phrasing, place it initially in an independent sentence?

    For he was a gamester, he would have forgone...

    No, I don't think so. The embedded version rates a '?' from me, the initial one '*'. It's not at all grammatical in my dialect; Heyer's original is merely surprising and odd.

    The CGEL discusses various evidence about whether this causal for is a coordinator (like and, but, or, nor) or a preposition (like because, since), and comes down on the side of a preposition. (The traditional category 'conjunction' is not used by CGEL.)

    June 23, 2010

  • (Of a word) Created by conversion from a participle: for example, English prepositions such as according, concerning, given, including, seeing.

    June 22, 2010

  • I have just discovered a completely new construction. Faced with the clause 'The firm is intuitive to our needs', I thought first, 'That's not English', and second, 'How do we say that in English?' I then asked my respected colleague and she confirmed that it wasn't correct.

    But Google shows about 150 000 hits for "is intuitive to * needs", which are robust (they don't go away as you page through). I was about to accept it as a mere quirk that I'd never encountered this construction before. Then I added site:UK to the search. That brings it down to eight (8) hits, rather than the expected ten to fifteen thousand. No wonder I'd never heard it before.

    June 15, 2010

  • Bartholomew's Day massacre and St Valentine's Day massacre are not examples: they are not X's Y, but X Y, with X and Y both nominals. The X in each case is internally Z's W, so the days themselves are candidates, like all other saints' days.

    June 14, 2010

  • The well-known story for the name of isabella is, however, chronological impossible, as the word was in use in 1600, before the Siege of Ostend:

    Item, one rounde gowne of Isabella-colour satten,..set with silver spangles

    June 14, 2010

  • Often? I can't imagine this being said in an accent that had [r] there.

    June 11, 2010

  • [The beadle's] rent is excused or lowered; he gets certain perquisites, such as a measure of seed-corn from time to time, or a piece of meadow (a beadle-mead) for himself, or a number of sheaves at the harvest.
    —H. S. Bennett, Life on the English Manor, Cambridge, 1960, p. 180

    April 29, 2010

  • A schedule added to an amending Act, setting out the final form that an amended section will read as after the amendments have passed: useful where the amendments themselves are small, patchwork variations to the previous wording.

    Named after a Mr Keeling, who in 1938 asked a question in the House of Commons suggesting such a device. I got my explanation from Hansard of 13 Nov 2000.

    April 23, 2010

  • All the quotations in the OED second edition (1989) are from philosophy, going back to 1949.

    April 9, 2010

  • A couple of capripede caryatids looked after the door and there was a coat of arms above it, a unicorn goring a knight.
    —Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus

    March 31, 2010

  • This is the preferred word worldwide over 'digitalization', by a factor of several to one, increasing to over ten to one on UK sites (there comparing -is- spellings).

    March 18, 2010

  • Oh great. Grammar advice from someone who thinks you have to use 'whom' for an object. I am not even mildly curious what other ignorant garbage these idiots are propagating, but I am sad that they worked out how to line the crayons up to make a website.

    March 4, 2010

  • 'Hey, Crisis! You can snap rebar with your bare hands, right?'
    'If it's made of styrofoam.'
    Doonesbury. Crisis is a wrestler on USO tour in Afghanistan.

    March 4, 2010

  • Not "no" in Finnish, contrary to the previous comment. In Finnish negation is an inflected verb: en "I do not", emme "we do not", ei "he, she, or it does not", and so on.

    February 28, 2010

  • Women are like banks, boy, breaking and entering is a serious business. Give me your word you're not vaginalatrous?
    —Joe Orton, Entertaining Mr Sloane, Act I

    January 12, 2010

  • If humans weren't using and refining language I would like to know what they were doing with their autocatalytically increasing brains
    —D. Falk, quoted in Jean Aitchison, 1996, The Seeds of Speech

    January 12, 2010

  • They did not speak much more, but thridded their way through many a bosky dell, whose soft green influence could not charm away the shock and the pain in Margaret's heart, caused by the recital of such cruelty; a recital too, the manner of which betrayed such utter want of imagination, and therefore of any sympathy with the suffering animal.
    —Mrs Gaskell, North and South

    November 23, 2009

  • There are various cross-relating conditions here. Does Dutch ij get alphabetized as a separate letter, after iz? This is how Welsh and (until recently) Spanish treated their digraphs. Did Croatian keep its nj and lj on a single piece of lead type? (Did Spanish and Welsh?) The most unusual feature of ij is its capitalization. Apparently CHamorro optionally does this: the digraph ch is capitalized as either Ch or CH.

    October 21, 2009

  • There must be some better technical term for this, since it's not actually a ligature, but I don't know what it is. Compound letter? The capital form of ij is IJ, as in the IJsselmeer. (Unicode calls it a ligature, I see, but that doesn't make it one.)

    October 20, 2009

  • Example of obligatory pied-piping:

    These are the books most of whose covers I have designed.

    October 14, 2009

  • Example of opaque context:

    (1) Reagan believed that Beatrix lived in The Hague.
    (2) Reagan believed that the eldest daughter of Juliana lived in The Hague.

    On the usual reading (de dicto) (1) and (2) can be true or false independently of each other; however there is the possibility of a so-called de re reading in which they are still truth-functionally equivalent, if we focus on the referential content of beliefs rather than on what the believer would say.

    October 14, 2009

  • McGonald effect would have been apt.

    October 14, 2009

  • also n. (rare) the future, esp. in phrase persevered for dexterity. Example:

    I spent my first full day in Korea at the tomb of the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung, yearning for the Red Sun of all mankind and seeing him persevered for dexterity.
    At Last, At Last My Visit to the DPRK!

    October 13, 2009

  • And indeed of anthelminthic, the best-formed derivative from the Greek. The prefix anti- assimilates to a following h.

    Conceivably, the change of one of the two <th>'s to <t> could be an authentic reflection of Greek phonetics: Grassmann's law. If the ancient Greeks themselves ever used this word, it would have dissimilated one of the <th>'s. But it's not in Liddell & Scott so I'm afraid that makes it a mere spelling mistake.

    October 13, 2009

  • The industry association is, I noticed today, the British Association of Removers; but I don't think I've ever seen this word before. (I exclude its bound use with different meaning in such forms as paint remover.)

    October 9, 2009

  • Pronounced [kærəˈpɑːtʃi] by someone on Radio 3 the other night, to my utter astonishment.

    October 7, 2009

  • What part of speech be avast? Karl 'Peg-leg' Hagen be concludin' 'tis a defective verb.

    September 28, 2009

  • Apakah Anwar pengWordie baru?

    September 28, 2009

  • Shoreditch was home to the Theatre and the Curtain, the first two theatres in (post-Roman) England. He and his whole company would have had to refresh themselves after a hard evening's acting.

    September 23, 2009

  • Some witty person wrote a poem about these confabulations and called it "Grettir's Faring," adding many jests of his own for the dilectification of men.
    Grettir's saga, 1914 translation by G.H. Hight.

    This is hapax legomenon, possibly an error by Hight for 'delectation'.

    September 22, 2009

  • We have had nothing from the Liberal Party. All we had was Black Jack McEwen trowelling on the tariff protection while he was kidding farmers he was representing them, and Liberal Party Treasurers sitting up like slugs while being handed speeches by Treasury officials. They could not even read the stuff, much less comprehend it.
    —Treasurer Paul Keating, Australian House of Representatives, 26 May 1988

    September 11, 2009

  • Ah, Internets! It so happens I can: Thursday, 26 May 1988, about 3.30 in the afternoon, Mr Keating's final paragraph on p. 3114 of Hansard. That says 'a gutser', but it's been edited at least to the extent of adding explanations in brackets that Keating wouldn't have said.

    September 11, 2009

  • Where you all come aguster is, over here we think we're born to rule you. And let me tell you this, it's been ingrained in me from childhood, I think my mission in life is to run you.
    — Paul Keating

    Almost all hits for "come aguster" on the Web are this Keating quote; and there are only a few for "come a guster". The original expression is "come a gutser". It's not clear from this what Keating originally said, and whether 'guster' is a genuine variant or a spreading typo meme.

    September 11, 2009

  • Cognate with English 'beam' ("rafter") and the "tree" component of 'hornbeam'. Also with Dutch 'boom', borrowed as the wooden thingy on a ship (and presumably thus the stretchy microphone), plus in the snake 'boomslang'.

    September 10, 2009

  • Not, in its principal sense, a compound of either 'lively' or the suffix '-head'. It's 'life' + the word giving modern English 'load', 'lode': thus meaning "provisions for life".

    In the 1500s a transparent homophone meaning "liveliness" was created.

    September 8, 2009

  • Nope: it's mathematical slope, from kulma "angle" + kerroin "coefficient, multiplier", which is from kertoa "multiply" (with mutation of t in a closed syllable).

    September 8, 2009

  • No, Vanessa, that is not how we do a Brazilian wax. My apologies, modom, Vanessa is new here.

    September 7, 2009

  • No particular manufacture is carried on here; the staple commodity is malt, of which large quantities are made: this place is a general reservoir for the major part of that article made within 25 or 30 miles, particularly from Saffron Walden in Essex, Newport, and villages adjacent; it is deposited in the care of persons called meters, and disposed of by them to factors or brewers in London for a small commission of 1 1/2d. per quarter; it is then put on board barges and sent to the metropolis.
    —from a description of Bishop's Stortford in the Universal British Directory, 1791

    September 4, 2009

  • The secret here is that it's not a \lorry strangling probe, it's a lorry \strangling probe. Nor is it a lorry strangling a \probe, aided by women.

    September 2, 2009

  • Someone must have coined it, and this is believable. This and 'amazement' are just the sort of thing that would be readily understood by his audience, and count towards the huge total of words he supposedly introduced. 'Audible' is known from 1529, and 'invisible' is ancient; someone must have been first to make the analogy, so why not the Bard?

    September 2, 2009

  • This obviously can't have been coined by Shakespeare. Something close to the modern spelling is first known in his works: the First Folio has 'Allegater' (for the 'Aligarta' of the first edition). From this time (early to mid 1600s) classical-looking spellings with an apparent suffix -tor replaced older spellings with Spanish -o or -a. (The word is actually from el lagarto "the lizard", Classical Latin lacerta.)

    September 2, 2009

  • How's this for an autantonym? 'Nerveless' seems to have swung right round to become a term of praise: "full of courage" instead of "devoid of courage". Almost all the leading Google hits for uses of the word are in this sense (and in a sporting context). I'd never heard this sense before now, and would have thought it a grossly insulting misapplication, almost a malapropism. But apparently this is how it's used now.

    August 28, 2009

  • I've heard of some cargo cult etymology that connects them. The Latin dubit- is actually a frequentative of a contracted form of du-hib-, i.e. (allowing for Old Latin weak vowel changes) du- "two" + hab- "have", thus "have two things in mind". Or at least that is vastly more likely.

    August 28, 2009

  • The word from well-formed Greek would be 'leuchippotomy' using the "cut" root, or 'leuchippoglyphy' using the "carve" root.

    I have to disagree with the comment about -tomy: the range of meanings of the Greek tem-/tom-/tm- root is quite wide and includes the required "cutting into". Many medical terms include -ec-tomy with a separate preposition "out", but plain -tomy as in 'neurotomy' can mean "cutting (through)".

    August 27, 2009

  • Also known as ro-ro-ro, or 'Roll-on Roll-off Roll-over'.

    August 25, 2009

  • Ooh! Ooh! Puts on tinfoil hat with the word 'pedant' picked out in drawing pins. It's an ejective voiceless uvular stop. Ejectives aren't plosives.

    August 25, 2009

  • Around 1800 you will find this in transitional forms: so-and-so uses to do something, is used to (= is accustomed to). Their usage is to do it. I don't know when the two words fused and it became pronounced with the [st].

    August 23, 2009

  • I understood (vaguely read/recalled) Saddam himself disfavoured the toponymic surname al-Takriti for some political reason: he didn't want to be identified too closely with a local clan, or some such.

    August 22, 2009

  • A pupal stage on the way to a Junior Treasury Counsel in the UK. Details here (warning: PDF)

    August 20, 2009

  • U Nu's name was actually Nu. U is just a male title. For some reason Nu and Thant (UN secretary-general) are always mentioned with their U.

    August 19, 2009

  • Briefly overhead in a supermarket at lunchtime: staff member describing to customer that whatever-foodstuff-it-was was marionated.

    String beans? Stingray?

    August 18, 2009

  • * changes mind about going to PossibleUnderscore's dinner party *

    August 18, 2009

  • I can't play sound clips, but if it's just [mænˈdeɪtəri], I would assume that's a common pronunciation, and surely there's nothing strange about it. Myself, I say [ˈmændətri] with initial stress, which is probably the older pronunciation—mine usually are, when I look them up.

    August 18, 2009

  • pachyderm

    August 16, 2009

  • Also (archaic), the amount of distance that can be seen across:

        They tooke a path that steepe upryght
    Rose darke and full of foggye mist.  And now they were within
    A kenning of the upper earth, when Orphye did begin
    Too dowt him least shee followed not, and through an eager love
    Desyrous for too see her, he his eyes did backward move.
    Immediatly shee slipped backe.
    —Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Arthur Golding, 1567

    August 16, 2009

  • I know. It fair gets your squippleplunch up, doesn't it?

    August 14, 2009

  • As a publisher once told H. L. Mencken, “there are four kinds of books that never, under any circumstances, lose money in the United States—first, detective stories, secondly, novels in which the heroine is forcibly debauched by the hero; thirdly, volumes on spiritualism, occultism, and other claptrap, and fourthly, books on Lincoln.�?
    —via 3 Quarks Daily

    My god! The plot of my bestseller drops into my lap like a ripe plum. The ghost of Lincoln debauches Nancy Drew.

    August 14, 2009

  • The direction of orbit is known for roughly a dozen exoplanets (planets outside our solar system). This is the only example with a retrograde orbit. All others are prograde; they orbit in the same direction as the spin of their star.
    New exoplanet orbits 'backwards' (BBC, 12 August 2009)

    August 14, 2009

  • Since which time I retired myself among the merrie muses, and by the worke of my pen and inke, have dezinkhornifistibulated a fantasticall Rapsody of dialoguisme, to the end that I would not be found an idle drone among so many famous teachers and professors of noble languages, who are very busy daily in devising and setting forth new bookes & instructing our English gentry in this honourable citie of London.
    —John Elliot or Eliote, Ortho-Epia Gallica, 1593

    August 14, 2009

  • transitive use of sprawl!

    August 14, 2009

  • telofy: the English word for that feeling of embarrassment is 'squippleplunch'. Guys, add it to your lists, it's a kingpin.

    August 14, 2009

  • Originally passe flower, a flower that surpasses others; consciously re-formed by Gerard because it flowers at Easter.

    August 13, 2009

  • The singular noun occurs in a few fixed phrases like 'gallow-bird' (which the OED has no instances of, but Google Books has) and 'gallow-tree'. But probably these date from the times when 'gallow' could be singular; they're not quite the same process as the singularization in 'scissor blade', 'trouser leg' etc.

    August 12, 2009

  • In 1899 Sidney Sime, later to be the Dunsany illustrator, created an understated masterpiece of erotic horror, depicting the incubus in action.

    August 11, 2009

  • fbharjo's brains must be preserved for posterity - anyone got a canopic jar?

    August 10, 2009

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