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Results 1 - 10 of 10
1. Etymology gleanings for February 2016

It is the origin of idioms that holds out the greatest attraction to those who care about etymology. I have read with interest the comments on all the phrases but cannot add anything of substance to what I wrote in the posts. My purpose was to inspire an exchange of opinions rather than offer a solution. While researching by Jingo, I thought of the word jinn/ jinnee but left the evil spirit in the bottle.

The post Etymology gleanings for February 2016 appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Review – Peas in a Pod by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Peas in a Pod, Tania McCartney (author), Tina Snerling (illus.), EK Books, June 2015.   The theme of individuality and self-expression is popular amongst children’s books, and one that has been brilliantly characterised by the award-winning duo, Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling in their latest picture book, ‘Peas in a Pod’. This author / illustrator […]

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3. Feathers, Scales, Fur or Skin: Tales of Friendship and Being Yourself

The Lucky Country. That’s Australia. We embrace difference. Celebrate diversity. Stand up for what we believe in. Be ourselves. Show compassion for those in need.   The following picture books, as chosen for the 2014 Speech Pathology Australia Books of the Year shortlist, all share common themes; diversity, friendship and uniqueness.   The Short Giraffe […]

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4. Monthly etymology gleanings for May 2014

By Anatoly Liberman

As usual, many thanks for the letters, questions, and comments. I answered some of them privately, when I thought that the material would not be interesting to most of our readers. In a few cases (and this is what I always say) I simply took the information into account. My lack of reaction should not be misunderstood for indifference or ingratitude.

Spelling Reform

As could be expected, the question about what to do with spelling has attracted considerable attention. I view our discussion with a measure of wistful concern. If a miracle happened and tomorrow someone said that society wants to reform English spelling, we would begin fighting among ourselves and never come to an agreement. We would behave like all revolutionaries in the world: there would be Bolsheviks/Montagnards (“All at once,” “Off with his/her head,” and the Kingdom of Heaven on earth built according to the first five-year plan), Mensheviks/Girondists, and the rest. In this discussion I represent only myself and prefer to stick to several propositions, not because they are supported by some profound linguistic theory, but because in all scholarly work I am more interested in results than in methodology, though I understand that without methodology there can be no results. This attitude comes from observing half a century of linguistic research, mighty long on theory and woefully short on memorable achievements, except for producing an army of tenured faculty.

So here are my propositions.

  1. The public will not accept a radical break with the past, so that, if we hope to get anywhere, we should work out a step-by-step plan and try to implement the reform gradually. I witnessed the fury of the opponents of a moderate spelling reform in Germany and the horror of the conservatives when a couple of hyphens were introduced in Russia about fifty years ago. “Step by step” should be defined. I only say: “Look well, O Wolves” (no trouble finding the source and context of this quotation).
  2. Phonetic spelling is out of the question. The base (the Roman alphabet) should remain untouched. Transcription as a teaching tool is fine, but it has nothing to do with our goal.
  3. The first steps should be extremely timid, almost unnoticeable, for instance, replacing sc in words like unscathed with sk, abolishing a few especially silly double letters, perhaps tampering with such low frequency bookish words as phthisis and chthonic, and so forth.
  4. Once the public agrees to such innocent changes (assuming that it does), we may perhaps go on. Here is a list of other painless measures: Americanize words like center, color, program, dialog, canceled (this experiment has been tried, so that such forms are by now familiar on both sides of the Atlantic) and the suffix -ize; abolish some superfluous letters: acquaint, acquiesce (or acquiesce), gnash, knock, intricate, and so it goes. My order is arbitrary, and the examples have been given at random.
  5. At present, we have to find influential sponsors among publishers, journalists, politicians (especially those who deal with immigration), and lexicographers. So far, despite my plea, no one from the staff of our great dictionaries has participated in the discussion. Perhaps our best bet is to get publishers interested: after all, it is they who produce books. If someone knows whom to approach and how to begin, don’t keep your information secret. Under a bushel candles are invisible.
A word of thanks

I have never been able to understand how Stephen Goranson finds things. But the fact remains that he does. Many thanks for the references to pedigree and many others!

Why do words change their meaning?

To answer this question I need a thick volume titled Historical Semantics. Unable to provide such a volume in the present post, I’ll give two examples from our recent experience. Everybody knows that kid is a young goat and a child. The sense “child” appeared much later. It was first slang and then became a regular item of everyday vocabulary, though we still say that so-and-so has no children or that children under five are not admitted, rather than kids. Since we more often speak about young boys and girls than about young goats, dictionaries now sometimes list the sense “kid” before the original one. A person who is twenty years old is no longer a kid except when he (probably always a he) burns tires or throws bottles at cops. Then newspapers speak about drunken kids who misbehaved after their team had lost (or won). Hence a new meaning: kid “a criminal of college age.”  We seldom notice how such shifts occur.

Here is another example. A correspondent has recently thanked me for a short and concise answer to his question. I was not surprised, for I had been exposed to this usage before. Concise (which means “brief, condensed,” as in A Concise Dictionary) has been confused with precise; hence the change of meaning. The correspondent was undoubtedly grateful for my “short and precise” reply.

Not particularly unique.

Not particularly unique.

Very unique

In a way, this is a continuation of the previous rubric. Another correspondent expressed his dismay at the phase given above. Very unique has been ridiculed more than once in my posts. Not long ago, I ran into the phrase particularly unique and rejoiced: here is something new. But, to make sure that I was not reinventing the wheel, I Googled for particularly unique: thousands of hits! Obviously, unique has almost lost its sense “one of a kind” and come to mean “unusual; exceptional.” We may rage, the way the heathen always do; however, the world will take no heed of us. A similar catastrophe has befallen the verb decimate “kill every tenth in a group.” Now it means “kill a large part of a group.” The etymology of both unique and decimate is still transparent (compare all kinds of uni- words, unicum, and decade). When the origin of the word is forgotten, it is even easier to fall into a semantic trap. But then this is what traps are made for.

Rather unique?

Rather unique?

Hubba-hubba, copacetic, and gook: their etymology

A correspondent sent me a letter with suggestions about the origin of those three words. His letter is too long to copy here, so I would be glad if he posted his remarks as comments. He is aware of my post on hubba-hubba (March 5, 2008) but missed the one on copacetic (“Jes’ copacetic, boss,” July 5, 2006). Like many of his predecessors, he believes in the foreign origin of those three words. Here I should only say that the Hebrew etymology of copacetic has been refuted quite convincingly, but the main problem with borrowings is this: If we believe that an English word has been taken over from another language, we should show under what circumstances, in what milieu, and why the process took place.

Family names like White and Black

Walter Turner has already clarified this point in his comment. I can only add the name Green and say that I lost faith in human decency after I discovered the family name Heifer. Meet the Heifers!

Agreement the American way

(By the Associated Press) “Russia is one of the few countries in the world that harbor vast reserves of the untapped hydrocarbons.” This is perhaps a borderline case. One can argue that harbor goes with countries in a legitimate way. But this is probably not what was meant. After all, Russia is one of the countries that harbors…. Never mind what it harbors. It is only grammar that interests us. Right?

Triggering the world and explaining individuals, or how university administrators write
  1. “It’s just a process to have that individual come into the office so they can be explained their rights and they can understand the process better.”
  2. [Ms. X urges Mr. Y] to re-evaluate “rules and regularities that allow outside community members to so heavily trigger and target students and faculty on this campus.” That is why administrators are paid so well. Who else would try to explain inexplicable individuals or try to so gracefully and without compunctions split an infinitive for the sake of triggering and targeting students and faculty? Unique examples? Not particularly.

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears on the OUPblog each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to him care of blog@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology articles via email or RSS.

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Images: 1. Monstre by Rama. CC-BY-SA-2.0-fr via Wikimedia Commons. 2. Two-headed California Kingsnake by Jason Pratt.

The post Monthly etymology gleanings for May 2014 appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Do You Stand Out From the Crowd?

I saw this great example of branding yesterday on my way to Fitness Class.

Why is it so great? Look at the colors, the shape, the design, the logo. It also contains contact a phone number and QR Code as contact information.

This sign serves the dual purpose of warning people off the grass, as well as promoting the brand. My eyes were immediately drawn to it, and I wanted to read what it was about.

Those looking for a lawn care company or thinking of changing theirs would most likely consider this company. Why? Because their signage is very professional.

The conclusion from an observer would be the company's work is is also professional.

That's the kind of branding I'm striving to achieve. Now I just need to find a gimmick like they have.

What about you? Do you have a great gimmick going? Or, maybe you've seen someone else's that strikes you -- that of an author, or perhaps someone in a different profession. Please share.

Excerpts & Buy Links to All 4 of these books are at

10 Comments on Do You Stand Out From the Crowd?, last added: 5/4/2012
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6. Indie Biz Designs: Business Cards

Business Card Stripe Designs

Diana Levin Business Card Stripe Designs
Business Card Stripe Designs Business Card Stripe Designs Business Card Stripe Designs

Stand Out! Use these unique business card designs and patterns for your indie business.

Tired of your old design? Try these retro and chic biz cards, with strip patterns and a single bead strand on the left side.

How it works:
After you order, you will send me all your biz and contact information that you want on the card. Send it to diana [!at] dianalevinart.com or through Etsy message conversations. I will place your info on the card and send you the new version ready for print

You will receive through email an electronic packet consisting of 2 psd and jpeg files: Yellow stripes and Peach Stripes with your information on each card.

Go to the listing page now to order your unique biz cards

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7. So Cool for School

Forget those boring, run-of-the-mill school supplies, Cool Pencil Case will make even the most reluctant student want to go back.

Cool Pencil Case offers products for any taste and style - if you can't find it here, it doesn't exist.  Here's a bit of what you'll find over at Cool Pencil Case;

Collectable Erasers
~ Animal Erasers
~ Assorted Chocolate Bar
~ Cookie Erasers
~ Fast Food
~ Sushi
...and more

Pencil Cases
~ Humorous - Toothpaste
~ Chic - Violin Pencil Pouch
~ Asian Contemporary - Asian Roll
~ Shoe Craze - Converse Shoe
~ Youth - Plush Animal
~ Animals - Blah Fish
~ Sporty - Race Car

Pens & Pencils
~ Chop Stick Pencils
~ Popcorn Pens
~ Couple Pens
~ Musician Pencil
...and more

Desk Supplies
~ Cool Stickers
~ Pocket Diary
~ High Top Shoe Notepads
~ Sticky Notes
~ Day Planners
...and more

Not only is Cool Pencil Case the hottest supplier of all your back-to-school needs, they also offer free, fast shipping for orders over $30 and no coupon is required.  Can't decide?  Grab a gift certificate and let your student have all the fun.

Check out Cool Pencil Case at; http://www.coolpencilcase.com/

2 Comments on So Cool for School, last added: 8/25/2010
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8. More Gore and Groening

0 Comments on More Gore and Groening as of 4/21/2007 4:48:00 PM
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9. Rosana


This one is for my little sister. In black, burgundy and the above tiffany blue (thank you for that last colour suggestion Jasmine!). About time too, yes, I know :)

Rosana cards & matching products at Floating Lemons Typography at Zazzle

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10. Tail Wags - Karyn Climans

My name is Karyn Climans and I am the owner and creator of Tail Wags Helmet Covers. After being a stay-at-home mom with 2 special needs kids for 15 years, I wanted to find a job that allowed me the flexibility to continue looking after my children and would provide an outlet for my creative skills. I was also determined to be my own boss because I couldn’t imagine having to report to someone else after being “independent” for so long. It’s been 4 ½ years since Tail Wags was officially launched and I haven’t looked back since.

Several years ago, while skiing with my sons, I was involved in a serious accident. Fortunately, I was wearing my ski helmet and it saved my life. The passion to promote safety awareness became the impetus behind starting Tail Wags Helmet Covers Inc. Over the years I had acquired a background in teaching, children’s programming and costume design and I took all of that knowledge and created Tail Wags Helmet Covers, a company making fun, whimsical helmet covers for every type of safety helmet. I make it fun for kids and adults alike to wear their helmets for every sport they enjoy and by doing so I have found a way to help prevent unnecessary head injuries.
There are over 40 adorable designs of helmet covers including the Fairy Princess, Menacing Monster, Bizzy Bee, Goldie the Goldfish, and Cheeky Monkey. The entire product line can be viewed at http://www.tail-wags.com/. People keep asking me if I’ll ever run out of ideas for new designs and I reply, “I doubt it but if I do, then I’ll retire”. Customers often suggest new designs for Tail Wags, for example, I’ve been asked for years to create a Moose. It’s taken a while because it’s a challenge to prevent the moose’s antlers from drooping but the new moose will be ready in the next couple of weeks.

My most unique design is the new bridal helmet cover. I received a special request to create a helmet cover for a bride who was riding off in to the sunset on her Harley motorcycle. I was so pleased with the final results that I am now offering a bridal cover for bike, ski and motorcycle helmets as part of my regular line.

Balancing work and family life is always a tough juggle. Owning my own business has been a lot more work than expected. My busiest season is September through March although summers are getting crazier ever since I launched my new lightweight lycra helmet covers, which are ideal for bike helmets. Even weekends are often booked with marketplace events. The only reason I can now devote this amount of time to Tail Wags is my sons

1 Comments on Tail Wags - Karyn Climans, last added: 8/10/2010
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