Category Archives: Vocabulary

Vocabulary Rocks! J is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! J is for…

Carrying on in my search for unusual words and origins, time to tackle the letter J. More fascinating history lessons in etymology and strange words for your enjoyment! For previous entries on this topic, a blog category search for “vocabulary” will bring up the archived posts. Search box is on the left. I LOVE vocabulary!   Java/Joe… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! I is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! I is for…

Moving along in the alphabet to the letter I… more fascinating history lessons in etymology and strange words for your enjoyment! For previous entries on this topic, a blog category search for “vocabulary” will bring up the archived posts. I LOVE vocabulary!   Illinois The state of Illinois is a French version of the name of… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! H is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! H is for…

Bringing y’all some more strange words with their etymology or origin stories. I love language! Today is the time for H. For previous entries on this topic, a blog category search for “vocabulary” will bring up the archived posts. Enjoy! Hackney and Hack Hackney comes from the Old French haquenée, meaning a gentle, riding horse, an ambling horse.… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! G is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! G is for…

Continuing my quest for strange words and phrases to uncover the etymology or origin stories. Gotta love language! Well, at least I do! For previous entries on this topic, a blog category search for “vocabulary” will bring up the archived posts. Enjoy! Gargoyle Gargoyle is a stone figure that forms part of the gutter system of… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! F is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! F is for…

  Flea Market The term flea market is a translation of the French marché aux puces — literally “market with fleas” — an open-air market where second-hand goods are sold. Generally, the word flea connoted low-rent or cheap, because such places were often infested with fleas. There is going on just now near the Barriere de Montreuil,… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! E is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! E is for…

Earl Earl is the counterpart of churl. It originally simply denoted a man of noble birth and appears in several Germanic languages. Its cognates include the Old Saxon erl and the Old Norse earl, which later developed into iarl or jarl. Like many Old English words, its date of appearance cannot be determined with any… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! D is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! D is for…

      Doughnut The term doughnut is first attested to 1809 in Washington Irving’s Knickerbocker’s History of New York. But Irving does not refer to the toroidal confection that we know today. Instead, what he describes are small balls of fried dough, what we would today call doughnut holes: An enormous dish of balls of sweetened… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! Eponyms

Vocabulary Rocks! Eponyms

A true eponym is an ordinary common noun derived from the name of a person or place. The important, defining property is that the word does not refer exclusively to the person or place named by the proper noun, as does Marxism or Christian, but is used to refer to a general category. Even if you don’t… Continue Reading

Quoting Shakespeare

Quoting Shakespeare

April 23rd is generally considered to be a good day to celebrate the birth of England’s greatest poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. This is partly because there are no records of his birth—although he was baptized on April 26—and partly because he died on April 23, so there is a pleasing, almost poetic symmetry about… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! C is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! C is for…

California The Golden State’s name comes from a Spanish romance written in 1510. Las sergas de Esplandian (The Exploits of Esplandian), by Garcia Ordóñez de Montalvo, contains a reference to a fictional island called California. “…on the right hand of the Indies, there is an island called California, very near to the Terrestrial Paradise…” Since… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! B is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! B is for…

Barbecue This American contribution to international cuisine actually originated in the Caribbean, and the word comes to us via Spanish from its Indian roots. The original sense of barbecue is that of a raised, wooden (later metal) framework used for either sleeping upon or curing meats. The Indians of Guiana called it a babracot and the… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! UK version…

Vocabulary Rocks! UK version…

Time for more origins of those bizarre phrases we utter. These are some unique phrases from the history of our friends across the pond. A Square Meal The saying “having a square meal” comes from the English Royal Navy during the time of Nelson. In order to stop the plates/ dishes slipping around on the… Continue Reading

Vocabulary Rocks! A is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! A is for…

  Alaska The name of the 49th US state comes to us, via Russian, from the Aleut alakshak or alaeksu or any one of a number of spelling variants. The Aleut word is reported as meaning either mainland or peninsula. The form Alaska was in common use by the time of the US purchase of… Continue Reading