Dot Wordsworth

Ask Jeeves: who first came out with ‘What ho’?

In 1899, the music-hall song ‘What ho! She bumps!’, with words by Harry Castling, was a hit

By Dot Wordsworth

The word of the year (whether we like it or not)

There is no vaccine against a word, but I hope coronavirus will be in less demand in 2021

By Dot Wordsworth

The strange language of this year

We have become distanced strangers fearful of a handshake or a kiss

By Dot Wordsworth

Starting out in cyber

I am annoyed by the use of cyber as a noun

By Dot Wordsworth


Is Billie Eilish really in shock over James Bond?

‘Shock’, from the French ‘choque’, began as the word for a collision of armies

By Dot Wordsworth

Why must we ‘live with’ coronavirus?

Living with is a phrasal verb first applied, in the 17th century, to spouses

By Dot Wordsworth

Might ‘may’ kill ‘might’?

In recent years the distinction between may and might in the present tense has collapsed

By Dot Wordsworth

The Sex Worker of Babylon

The first usage of the term dates back to the New York Times in 1971

By Dot Wordsworth

What does it mean to go ‘stir crazy’?

Only now I discover my assumptions about that phrase were wrong

By Dot Wordsworth

Can you gaslight a whole minority?

I fear gaslight is dangerously close to meaning ‘disagree with us’ or ‘suggest that we are mistaken’

By Dot Wordsworth

Where did ‘taking a knee’ come from?

The football tactic is also known as the genuflect offense

By Dot Wordsworth

How ‘odd’ became normal

Odd is Scandinavian in origin, Viking if you like

By Dot Wordsworth

How ‘furlough’ became mainstream

Ben Jonson spelt it vorloff in recognition of its Dutch origin

By Dot Wordsworth


Why ‘housewife’ is no more demeaning than ‘husband’

‘Housewife’ meaning ‘woman in charge of a household’ was also sometimes pronounced ‘husif’. By the 16th century it was worn down to ‘hussy’

By Dot Wordsworth

What do elbows have to do with fighting coronavirus?

Digging up reliable etymologies takes a lot of elbow grease

By Dot Wordsworth

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