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About this site

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or change their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least some part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, the background to words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

This is the archive of pieces that have appeared in the free newsletter. Weekly issues include much more than appears here, including comment by readers, serendipitous encounters with unfamiliar language, and tongue-in-cheek tut-tuttings at errors perpetrated by sloppy writers.

New this week

Corybantic It’s best not to delve too deeply into the Greek myths behind this word, which feature hermaphroditism, nocturnal emissions and castration. Merely a story of everyday life on Mounts ...
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Going spare You’ve been misled by a use of this characteristically British slang phrase. It actually means being in a state of rage or distress over some issue identified by the context: “Mum will be going spare ...
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Randomly chosen

Of thimbleriggers and joculators One especially widespread entertainment was gambling. It took place anywhere that people gathered — in markets, fairgrounds, racecourses, pubs, or in the street ...
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The next website update

The next update is due on 23 August 2014. You should then be able to read about the rare verb animadvert and the American slang term vigorish. If you subscribed to my newsletter, you would already have seen it, and more besides.

Recently added pages

Epilimnion; Nail; Lucubration; Blooper; Bounding main; Precrastination; File; Logocidal; Bat an eyelid; Closet versus Cupboard; Gyre; Skeleton in the closet; Nuciform; Red rag to a bull; Colporteur; Hail fellow well met; Kith; Busman’s holiday; London to a brick; Opusculum; Marthambles; Nipcheese; Flammable; Odd; Stitched up like a kipper; Bug letter; Hodmandod; On the lam; Decussate; Cacoethes; Box of birds; Supernaculum; Misanthrope; Brown Windsor soup.

Last updated 16 Aug. 2014.

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved. See the copyright page for notes about linking to and reusing this page. For help in viewing the site, see the technical FAQ. Your comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 16 August 2014.