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Etymology

15 English Words You Didn't Know Were Derived From Irish Gaelic

Paul Anthony Jones | Posted 03.17.2014 | Books
Paul Anthony Jones

With St Patrick's Day upon us today, March 17, here are 15 words the English language owes to Gaelige, better known to English speakers as Irish Gaelic -- and as this list shows, Irish has given us a lot more than just leprechauns and shamrocks.

13 Words You Probably Didn't Know Were Coined By Authors

Paul Anthony Jones | Posted 02.20.2014 | Books
Paul Anthony Jones

Shakespeare isn't the be-all and end-all of course (that's another of his by the way). English has had its fair share of literary giants over the years who, from Chaucer and Milton to Dickens and even Dr. Seuss, have each contributed words to our language.

Compassion

Megan Staggs | Posted 02.25.2014 | Healthy Living
Megan Staggs

Branch to bough, with an open heart, compassion is always available for both the receiver and the giver.

A Partial List of Sadistic Cat Idioms

Carl Pettit | Posted 11.09.2013 | Comedy
Carl Pettit

If your particular cat crosses the line, and drops a few unwanted biological nuggets into your milk and cereal, or licks one of your eyeballs while you're half asleep, you might want to remind your kitty that it wasn't always an Internet star.

Has 'Cringeworthy' Become Cringeworthy?

Stephen Kessler | Posted 09.28.2013 | Comedy
Stephen Kessler

Anthony Weiner had a lousy day last Tuesday, but the word cringeworthy did not. For cringeworthy, it was a bonanza.

Weird Word Salad: The Terminology of the Unexplained

Sharon Hill | Posted 07.19.2013 | Weird News
Sharon Hill

There is a problem with how the word paranormal is used because it is often utilized in a way that is perhaps not consistent with the original intent.

Why You're A 'Faggot'

Phillip M. Miner | Posted 05.29.2013 | Gay Voices
Phillip M. Miner

For over a year I researched the words that people use to describe gay men -- words like "faggot," "pillow biter," "queer," "gym bunny," "bear," "twink," "homosexual" and even "gay" -- to get at the heart of the assumptions that people make about us.

Are There Any Words That Were Offensive in the Past but Are Now Totally Harmless?

Quora | Posted 05.04.2013 | Arts
Quora

This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Joey Frey, Medical Student The word "guy" was basically the "f***face" o...

Can Insects Smell Food from Hundreds of Meters Away?

Quora | Posted 03.30.2013 | Science
Quora

This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Matan Shelomi, Entomologist Within a hundred meters seems likely. That seems to be the limit...

Etymology Of Christmas And Hanukkah Food

William B. Bradshaw | Posted 02.17.2013 | Books
William B. Bradshaw

At this time of year we go about joyfully wishing one another "Happy Holidays." The word "holiday" is the combination of two Old English words: "holy" and "day." We are really wishing happy "holy days" for one another--referring primarily to Christmas and Hanukkah.

Where Did The Word 'Fart' Come From?

| Posted 07.29.2013 | Books

From the OUP Blog, by Anatoly Liberman Fart looks like a product of our time, but it has existed since time immemorial. Even the nuances have not b...

Robert Johnson and the Myth of the Illiterate Bluesman

Debra Devi | Posted 08.28.2012 | Home
Debra Devi

How often have you heard that old saw about Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at midnight on a Delta crossroads? It all started because of Johnson's uncanny mastery of the guitar.

The Origins Of 7 Popular Slang Words

Professor Julie Coleman | Posted 07.22.2012 | Books
Professor Julie Coleman

For me, slang is at the social interface of language. Slang words aren't linguistically different from other words, except that they keep on moving. It is my considered opinion that slang is a bag of snakes.

11 People You Don't Want To Be Friends With

Tim Lihoreau | Posted 07.20.2012 | Books
Tim Lihoreau

Perhaps we all have our own Schadenfreude palette (that is, the desire to gloat and find happiness in the misfortunes of others). Having thought about it, I instantly began to notice the said traits amongst friends, relatives and, indeed, total strangers. So I decided to collect them.

Possessed: Voodoo's Origins and Influence from the Blues to Britney

Debra Devi | Posted 05.16.2012 | Home
Debra Devi

This was the religion of many slaves brought from West Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean. Vodun was brutally repressed by slave-owners, yet its powerful beats, ethics and aesthetics endured. We owe our concepts of cool, soul and rock and roll to it.

The ONE Word That Makes You Sound Stupid, Guaranteed

Zoë Triska | Posted 07.07.2012 | Books
Zoë Triska

I have something to admit: I am guilty of a horrible crime.

Bessie Smith: Music's Original, Bitchinest Bad Girl

Debra Devi | Posted 04.25.2012 | Arts
Debra Devi

What hugely popular female singer beat a rival unconscious, slept with her musical director, seduced her female backup dancers, frequented live sex shows and mortified New York society by telling a wealthy fan to "get the f*ck away from me"? 1920s blues singer Bessie Smith.

The Real Story Behind Howlin' Wolf's 'Killing Floor'

Debra Devi | Posted 06.03.2012 | Home
Debra Devi

"Wolf had seven wives. One was named Helen. She shot him with a double barrel shotgun with buckshot. Out the second floor window. This woman, oh man, he wrote that song about her!"

Dirty Words and Gender Switching in the Blues

Debra Devi | Posted 05.22.2012 | Arts
Debra Devi

Africans may have arrived here with nothing, but they enriched and vitalized American language and culture beyond measure. Africans in the Americas became masters of metaphor and euphemism.

This Word Doesn't Belong in Your Sex Life

Brenna Cammeron | Posted 04.09.2012 | Women
Brenna Cammeron

I try to explain my sensuous after-work activities to a friend, I sound more like I have a penchant for erotic massage than hibiscus shampoo.

The Etymology Of Muppet

Posted 11.23.2011 | Books

Originally posted on OUP's Etymology & Language Blog With the arrival of the new Muppet movie, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Beaker, and our other felt frien...

A Brief History Of The Word 'Sh*t-Faced'

Slate Magazine | Paul Collins | Posted 06.19.2011 | Books

Some years ago, Slate contributor Paul Collins became curious about the history of the word bonkers. After a letter to the editors of the Oxford Engli...

Old Words in a New Box: Cee-Lo's Hit Single

Hugh Rawson | Posted 05.25.2011 | Arts
Hugh Rawson

The taboo of profanity is greatly relaxed nowadays. But is this progress? Or simply change? There doesn't seem to be a lot new under the sun.

On Words: 'Global Warming' Meets Astrology

Bill Chameides | Posted 05.25.2011 | Green
Bill Chameides

Crossposted with www.TheGreenGrok.com.For Friday a little, light, linguistics lesson. Breaking from TheGreenGrok formula of sharp, cutting-edge pieces...

The Bullying Years: A Survival Guide for Gay Kids

Gary Cohan | Posted 11.17.2011 | Healthy Living
Gary Cohan

Stay tough, stay hopeful, stay healthy and stay alive because, I promise you -- as a gay man, a medical doctor and, most importantly, as a survivor -- it absolutely does get better.