Mind your language

living with

Why must we ‘live with’ coronavirus?

October 14, 2020 2:27 pm

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

might

Might ‘may’ kill ‘might’?

September 5, 2020 11:54 am

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

sex worker

The Sex Worker of Babylon

August 10, 2020 8:57 am

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

stir crazy

What does it mean to go ‘stir crazy’?

July 4, 2020 8:38 am

Only now I discover my assumptions about that phrase were wrong

gaslight

Can you gaslight a whole minority?

June 18, 2020 11:27 am

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

knee

Where did ‘taking a knee’ come from?

June 11, 2020 3:47 pm

The football tactic is also known as the genuflect offense

odd

How ‘odd’ became normal

June 6, 2020 11:12 am

Odd is Scandinavian in origin, Viking if you like

furlough

How ‘furlough’ became mainstream

April 24, 2020 6:05 pm

Ben Jonson spelt it vorloff in recognition of its Dutch origin

housewife

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

April 22, 2020 8:19 pm

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

elbow

What do elbows have to do with fighting coronavirus?

April 12, 2020 10:39 am

Digging up reliable etymologies takes a lot of elbow grease

pansexual

We’ve been pansexual for a while now

March 6, 2020 10:51 am

Like ‘television’, ‘pansexuality’ is a bastard form, founded half on a Greek word and half on a Latin one

tergiversation

What is a ‘tergiversation’?

February 18, 2020 10:42 am

The Latin for ‘back’ is ‘tergum’

reset

The link between politics and moisturizer

January 25, 2020 2:19 pm

With some surprise I found reset has been in use since the early 17th century

whilst

The origins of ‘whilst’

December 7, 2019 9:51 am

It started off by displaying what is called the adverbial genitive

posh

Who really invented the word ‘posh’?

November 5, 2019 12:56 pm

People prefer memorable tales, especially those involving acronyms, to the truth

Is Donald Trump really bonkers?

May 17, 2018 7:02 pm

John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, has a way with words. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003…