Archive for the ‘Etymology’ Category

cold cuts

November 12, 2015

Recently I wondered about the story of cold cuts ‘lunch meat’, an Adj + N composite that is not particularly transparent semantically (in fact, lunch meat isn’t fully transparent either). There’s some interesting linguistic history here. But there’s clearly also some substantial cultural history to be uncovered, and for this I don’t have the resources.


Bizarro etymology

November 8, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, with a preposterous (but entertaining) etymology:

Fantasy etymology and fantasy cultural history.


November 1, 2015

Recently among specials offered by Reposado in Palo Alto, dishes featuring mussels (which I’m very fond of). Mussels have been mentioned a number of times on this blog, but have never gotten special attention. Now their day has come. Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce, on pasta (not from Reposado):



Morning names: naked mole rat, Penn Palestra

July 25, 2015

A double-header this morning. I have no idea where the naked mole rat came from. The Palestra at Penn was undoubtedly prompted by the music of Palestrina, which was playing on WQXR when I woke — though it turns out that palaestras and Palestrina have nothing to do with one another etymologically, nor has either of them anything to do with palisades.


It’s the glue, Ruthie

July 7, 2015

Today’s One Big Happy, with one of Ruthie’s word confusions:

Collage, collagen: etymological cousins.


Sunday Pun

April 12, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, with an outrageous play on The Mummy’s Curse (the movie):




March 29, 2015

Annals of remarkable birds (like the hoatzin, here): an image passed on to me by Chris Hansen:


Two blue-footed boobies. Yes, that’s their real color. But why boobies?



March 20, 2015

On the NPR blog on the 11th, “From Ancient Sumeria To Chipotle Tacos, Cumin Has Spiced Up The World” by Adam Maskevich, with this striking claim:

In English, … cumin has a singular distinction – it is the only word that can be traced directly back to Sumerian, the first written language. So when we talk about cumin, we are harkening back to the Sumerian word gamun, first written in the cuneiform script more than 4,000 years ago. [hearken back is a variant of hark back, recognized by NOAD2]

This is extravagantly phrased. There’s a connection to Sumerian, but it’s far from direct.



February 23, 2015

Today’s One Big Happy, in which it turns out that Ruthie isn’t the only character who’s unsure about word meanings:

NOAD2 identifies gormless as informal and specifically British, so it’s no surprise that the adults don’t know what it means (though the appalling Avis takes it back to a putative noun stem gorm, which she treats as a mass noun (gormless ‘without gorm, lacking gorm’), though it could be a count noun (gormless ‘without gorms, lacking gorms’)).


Lexicographer, unchained

January 15, 2015

From lexicographer Kory Stamper on her blog (“harm∙less drudg∙ery: life from inside the dictionary”) of December 19th: “Answers I Wish I Could Send: Etymology Edition”, with comments from readers (edited some for clarity) and sharp-tongued answers she wishes she could give. Making points on my blog, Language Log, Ben Zimmer’s blogs, etc. Hilarious stuff. Some highlights below.



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