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14 February 2015

Worry wart It’s been about a month since you asked this question, so I hope you’ve not been kept awake at night worrying about the origins and spelling of this curious expression. In case you have, I hasten ...
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Punch list I’ve no personal experience of this term — it seems to be restricted to the civil engineering and building industries in the US and has never been used in Britain. Searching around, it turns out that ...
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Verbigeration The American actor, musician, and author John Lithgow remarked in a recent newspaper interview that verbigeration was his current favourite word. Though it describes the use of words, the concern ...
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31 January 2015

Heliotrope In early 1880, newspaper articles throughout much of the English-speaking world, usually headed “for the ladies”, reported that the Paris spring fashions featured a new colour ...
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Ditty bag Ditty bag comes from the days of sailing ships: “On each side of the berth-deck, termed “the wings,” are racks for the accommodation of canvass bags; each man has one in which he keeps his clothes, and ...
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10 January 2015

Eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious This appears quite often in modern collections of exotic and unfamiliar words. It’s certainly both. It’s monstrous, 31 letters long (to save electrons and my typing fingers, let’s call it E31 ...
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Old fogey An old fogey is a person of advanced years — or seems to be so to the person doing the describing — who holds on to attitudes that they learned when they were young and rejects new things, so appearing old-fashioned ...
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18 December 2014

Ampersand [UPDATED] This name for the character & is surprisingly recent, not being known before the late eighteenth century, though the character itself was in use long before printing was invented. It started ...
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13 December 2014

Phizzog In his blog The Oxford Etymologist, Professor Anatoly Liberman recently mentioned coming across phizzog in Slabs of the Sunburnt West, a book of 1922 by the American poet Carl Sandburg. He found that ...
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Horse creature This is an intriguing usage, hardly recorded in dictionaries, even the biggest, and which hasn’t been noticed or discussed by any writer on language I’ve been able to identify. I’ve found some ...
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3 December 2014

Get one’s goat [UPDATED]  In 1927, a writer in the Brazil Times — not the country, but the place in Indiana — commented this was “one of the most absurd slang phrases in the English language”. It’s hard to disagree ...
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25 November 2014

Mammock Ken Hopson emailed me a copy of a letter he had found in the Amherst County courthouse records of Virginia. A farmer sent it in March 1896 to the Southern Railway, claiming for a bull that had been ...
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Mx Mx was created on the model of the other personal titles Mr, Mrs and Ms for a person who doesn’t identify themselves as either male or female or doesn’t want their gender to be known. An article in the Guardian ...
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Stepney This odd-sounding term for what we in Britain call a spare wheel or Americans a spare tire is known in some countries of the former British empire and colonies, including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and ...
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18 November 2014

Vape Oxford Dictionaries announced today (18 November) that they have made vape their international Word of the Year 2014. This odd little word and its compounds have risen from almost total obscurity to high fashion ...
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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Last updated 31 Jan. 2015.

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

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996– All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/index.htm
Last modified: 14 February 2015.