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Math or Maths?

Math or Maths? A few minutes with Dr Lynne Murphy (an American linguist in England) should clear this right up. Via Numberphile.
posted by R. Mutt on Apr 30, 2014 - 116 comments

European Word Translator

Enter a word in english to display translations on a map. via
posted by Brent Parker on Mar 29, 2014 - 52 comments

Etymology maps: charting various words throughout Europe

Redditor sp07 started a Reddit trend: creating etymology maps of Europe, with more to be seen in r/etymologymaps.
posted by filthy light thief on Nov 10, 2013 - 48 comments

A Lackadaisy Air

From the New-York Mirror of February 24, 1883:
“. . . a new and valuable addition has been made to the slang vocabulary. … We refer to the term “Dood.” For a correct definition of the expression the anxious inquirer has only to turn to the tight-trousered, brief-coated, eye-glassed, fancy-vested, sharp-toes shod, vapid youth who abounds in the Metropolis at present. … The Dood is oftenest seen in the lobbies of our theatres on first-nights. He puffs cigarettes or sucks his hammered-silver tipped cane in the entr actes, and passes remarks of a not particularly intellectual character on the appearance and dresses of the actresses. His greatest pleasure lies in taking a favorite actress or singer to supper at Delmonico’s or the Hotel Brunswick—places he briefly calls ‘Dels’ and the ‘Bruns’—where he will spend his papa’s pelf with a lavish hand. … ”
[more inside]
posted by mannequito on Oct 26, 2013 - 40 comments

A History of Meh, from Leo Rosten to Auden to The Simpsons

The problem with tracing meh over time, as with so many fleeting interjections, is that it’s terribly underrepresented in the linguistic and lexicographical literature. [more inside]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Sep 8, 2013 - 13 comments

to thine own self be true

"The perception of Shakespeare's matchless linguistic inventiveness is closely bound up with his role as an icon of English nationalism." New computerized research indicates he didn't make up so many words. [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Aug 22, 2013 - 34 comments

Morse Code

The Walrus And The Lexicographer, or How Tolkien's OED Etymology Makes An English "Walrus."
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jun 25, 2013 - 12 comments

Bears. And etymology!

An animated history of the word "bear"
posted by moxie_milquetoast on Jun 7, 2013 - 27 comments

A vast array of vaguely interesting stuff

Vaguely Interesting stuff. Here's two to get you started:
Calling from the grave - If you ever felt slightly claustrophobic using a traditional BT telephone kiosk, this might be down to its unique architectural history – the design of the UK’s world famous red telephone boxes was inspired by a nineteenth century tomb.
Mass trespass - The Duke of Devonshire’s gamekeepers were on high alert. A left-wing group had been agitating in the Derbyshire village of Hayfield, threatening to “take action to open up the fine country at present denied us.” Their target was Kinder Scout, part of the Duke’s extensive moorland estate in the Peak District. But if they wanted to trespass on His Grace’s land, they would have to get past the gamekeepers.

posted by unliteral on Dec 5, 2012 - 6 comments

Lousy? Crummy? Fed Up?

Trench Talk now entrenched in the English Language - Military historian Peter Doyle and Julian Walker, an etymologist at the British Library, have written Trench Talk about how words from the first World War have become part of everyday English. [more inside]
posted by pointystick on Dec 3, 2012 - 22 comments

Meta: word-forming element meaning 1. "after, behind," 2. "changed, altered," 3. "higher, beyond;" from Gk.

Are you enthusiastic ("pertaining to possession by a deity," from Gk. enthousiastikos "inspired," from enthousiazein ) about Etymology? ( ethimolegia "facts of the origin and development of a word," from O.Fr. et(h)imologie (14c., Mod.Fr. étymologie), from L. etymologia, from Gk. etymologia, properly "study of the true sense (of a word)," Then why not explore ( 1580s, "to investigate, examine," a back formation from exploration, or else from M.Fr. explorer (16c.), from L. explorare ) the vast resources (1610s, "means of supplying a want or deficiency," from Fr. resourse) of the ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY [more inside]
posted by The Whelk on Nov 12, 2012 - 30 comments

"Cope," Contemptuously Counsels the Carnivore.

Alphabet Horror Vacui is a satire of children's alphabet books utilizing unnerving themes such as nightmares, war, monsters, institutionalized ignorance, and willful ambivalence to human suffering in lieu of familiar alphabet scenes of busy city streets, animals amongst nature, and happy fanciful scenes. Each piece takes a slightly different tack with Marsh's self-imposed assignment, and while some of them are funny in an almost Edward Gorey way, others worm their way into your brain. (via io9) [more inside]
posted by mysticreferee on Oct 7, 2012 - 6 comments

Pitohui - Lesson and Garnot, 1827 (poisonous New Guinea bird) The name comes from a response to tasting it

Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature. A collection of interesting scientific names. [more inside]
posted by bluefly on Sep 27, 2012 - 37 comments

Claws sharp

The alphaDictionary Historical Dictionary of American Slang presents a unique way for studying slang. It contains over 2200 slang words with the centuries in which they were first printed. The dates were taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, the Online Etymological Dictionary, or the earliest occurrences the editors can remember. [more inside]
posted by netbros on Sep 14, 2012 - 8 comments

M is for Myriapod

Mysteries of Vernacular is a series of delightful papercraft animations about etymology, by filmmaker Jessica Oreck. Four of a projected 26 videos, one for each letter of the alphabet, have been completed so far: Assassin, Hearse, Pants, and Clue. (via)
posted by Horace Rumpole on Sep 14, 2012 - 5 comments

Annoyed Grunt

D'oh!
posted by unSane on Aug 23, 2012 - 14 comments

cognates from Lithuanian to Sanskrit and Greek

"Puzzling Heritage: The verb 'fart.'" [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Aug 19, 2012 - 30 comments

debt - late 13c., dette, from O.Fr. dete

With (O.E.) the (O.E.) push (O.Fr.) of a button (Fr.), get (O.Norse) and (O.E.) visualize (L.) the etymology (O.Fr.) of a piece (O.Fr.) of text (O.Fr.). Visualizing English Word Origins across genres of text.
posted by stroke_count on Apr 26, 2012 - 13 comments

The History of English

How new words are created - just one section of a site that charts 'How English went from an obscure Germanic dialect to a global language'.
posted by unliteral on Dec 1, 2011 - 37 comments

Words of the last 100 years

Dave Wilton of wordorigins.org (prev) has been compiling etymological snapshots for each year of the past 100 years, based on words that first appeared in English that year. As of now, he is up to 1941. The 1911 entry gives a good overview of his goals and parameters. (via) [more inside]
posted by kmz on Nov 10, 2011 - 9 comments

MetaFilter: the Life of Riley

My brother often informs me that I live 'the life of Riley'. The other night while re-reading Bill Bryson's Made in America I noted he mentioned the origin of the phrase was a popular 1880s song (possibly 1883) Is That Mr. Reilly? by Pat Rooney, in which "the hero speculates on what he would do with a fortune", and revived for use during WWI. Curious, I found several possible origins, though the song remains the top contender. Dictionary.com defines life of Riley as "a carefree, comfortable, and thoroughly enjoyable way of living. The term became popular and eventually 'The Life of Riley' was used as the title of an American radio sitcom (Wiki), followed by a movie and television series. It was used again with the alternate spelling 'The Life of Reilly' in 1995 as the title of a short film from Ireland, and in a 2006 movie starring Charles Nelson Reilly. In 2009 'The Life of Riley' was the name of a British television comedy. Now that's a phrase with staying power. It's the name of an Irish band, an online store in the UK, it was used by a sign maker, and quite obviously, as the moniker of several drinking establishments, such as the Life of Riley Tavern in Portland, Oregon; The Life of Reilly - Irish Pub & Restaurant in Baltimore, in the United Kingdom as the 'Life Of Riley' in Glasgow, Lanarkshire; and 'Life of Reilly Pub' in Harrow, Middlesex; and with a strange possessive at the 'Life of Reilly's Pub and Grill' in Long Beach, New York. Let's also not forget the mysterious MeFite LifeofRiley, whose stats stand entirely at zero. My main reason for writing all this is to ask: how many Mefites use this term? I do, but unfortunately my brother is wrong: I don't live the life of Riley. I might one day, if I win the lottery . . .
posted by bwg on Dec 18, 2010 - 29 comments

word: /wɜrd/ -noun 1. a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.

Words of the World is a site dedicated to the exploration and life of words and language. [more inside]
posted by Cat Pie Hurts on Oct 24, 2010 - 8 comments

The Language of Food

The Language of Food is a blog with only four entries, but each one is an excellent, well-researched essay on, yes, food and language: ketchup, entrée, dessert, and ceviche. The author, Dan Jurafsky, teaches a parallel course at Stanford, the syllabus for which you can peruse here. via (mefi's own) honestengine.blogspot.com
posted by Rumple on Aug 14, 2010 - 10 comments

I'm from Red River Land. And you?

The Atlas of True Names reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings, of the familiar terms on today's maps of the World, Europe, the British Isles and the United States. For example, Britain = Great Land of the Tattooed, New Jersey = New Island of Spears, and Chicago = Stink Onion. There's now an iPhone app. However, at least one linguistic historian takes issue with some of their methodology. Mefi's own languagehat responds.
posted by desjardins on Jun 17, 2010 - 67 comments

You [insert popular culture reference here] fanboys keep drinking the Kool-Aid

I've considered myself a fanboy on occasion in the past, but it never occurred to me to investigate the history of the term. Technologizer's Harry McCracken (god I love that name) has a *far* more detailed and interesting look into the history of the term than I would ever have considered undertaking. [more inside]
posted by antifuse on May 20, 2010 - 26 comments

The 'G' Word.

MTV's Jersey Shore, a Real World-style reality program centered around eight young Italian-Americans living together in a beach house, is garnering charges of racism following their use of the allegedly pejorative terms guido and the feminine counterpart guidette in advertisements. But what exactly is a guido? [more inside]
posted by joechip on Jan 3, 2010 - 232 comments

Shut your bazoo and click, bindlestiff!

Slang in the Great Depression. Less'n you're a dumbcluck, you're gonna open up that bazoo and speak the language taught John Swartzwelder everything he knows. [more inside]
posted by ford and the prefects on Aug 31, 2009 - 20 comments

A post for all the epeoloatrists

Do you know what you would see a hypothecary about? Have stared down into a joola? Ever come across a jigget of sheep? Has someone called you a slubberdegullion to your face? Learn these and many more words from blogger Robin Bloor's fun 10 Words You Don't Know series of posts. Perhaps the most entertaining is the one where Bloor provides explanatory limericks with his definitions.
posted by Kattullus on Aug 7, 2009 - 27 comments

So let go of your balls

The origin of the word testimony probably has nothing to do with Romans taking oaths while holding their testicles, though interpreting the Bible in a certain way might make you think so.
posted by swift on Jul 15, 2009 - 26 comments

"It's a Secret to Everybody"

"It's a secret to everybody" -- an unbelievably comprehensive blog post about the etymologies of the names of famous (and not-so-famous) video game characters.
posted by empath on Jun 20, 2009 - 26 comments

Are all magocracies geriocracies? Or only most?

From the Dungeon to the Dictionary. A brief discussion of the origins of that least popular form of government, the magocracy, the author analyzes the dweomer of the word itself, consulting many a hefty libram in the process.
posted by kaibutsu on Apr 27, 2009 - 78 comments

Death of the dirty word

Why would an evolutionary biologist study words? It turns out there is an astonishing parallel between the evolution of words in a lexicon and the evolution of genes in an organism. The word two, for example, has been around much longer than most, and will likely be with us for millennia, whereas the comparatively rare and recent word dirty has undergone many mutations, and will probably be extinct in a few hundred years. Professor Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading, UK, tells us why on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's program As It Happens. Pull slider to 16:00 to start the seven minute interview.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium on Mar 7, 2009 - 49 comments

Mehness and FAILitude

John Hodgman: "Did I ever tell you people how much I hate the word 'meh'? Nothing announces 'I have missed the point' more than that word. It is the essence of blinkered Internet malcontentism. And a rejection of joy. By definition, it may mean disinterest (although simple silence would be a more damning and sincere response, in that case). But in use, it almost universally seems to signal: I am just interested enough to make one last joyless, nitpicky swipe and then disappear. It's part of the toxic Internet art of constant callous one upsmanship." (via Andy Baio)

Andy Baio: "Part of the problem is that 'FAIL' implies objective truth, when it's just your personal opinion. Tantek Çelik pointed out that, in LOLspeak, 'DO NOT WANT' would be more appropriate since it clearly conveys a personal opinion. [...] I know many people who make stuff for the web, all of them very passionate about what they do. And every time I see a 'FAIL' assigned to their work, it makes me sad. Yes, I know you're trying to be funny. But I'm starting to see a trend away from the funny, and towards the angry, bitchy, or mean. So please, mind yer words." [more inside]
posted by WCityMike on Mar 2, 2009 - 181 comments

Constellations of Words:Explore the Etymology and Symbolism of the Constellations

Constellations of Words : Explore the Etymology and Symbolism of the Constellations
posted by sidr on Feb 25, 2009 - 6 comments

False Etymologies

A false etymology is "an assumed or postulated etymology that current consensus among scholars of historical linguistics holds to be incorrect." The internet has provided a platform for the rapid spread of some false etymologies - Snopes has posts debunking Picnic / Handicap / Buck / Crowbar. On the other hand, a folk etymology can mean "the process by which a word or phrase, usually one of seemingly opaque formation, is arbitrarily reshaped so as to yield a form which is considered to be more transparent." Other interesting anomalies of etymology: backronyms and eggcorns.
posted by billysumday on Feb 5, 2009 - 27 comments

Lord Love a Duck!

Ever wonder what a quocker-wodger was? Just what did they mean when they said that you were all kippers and curtains? Worldwidewords.org has the answer. "More than 1600 pages on the origins, history, evolution and idiosyncrasies of the English language worldwide." Word geeks, say goodbye to the rest of your afternoon.
posted by freshwater_pr0n on Oct 20, 2008 - 17 comments

Intelligence is Sexy

Hot For Words - a youtube classroom series on etymology taught by Marina, a... hot Russian philologist. Mildly NSFW. [more inside]
posted by Navelgazer on Apr 1, 2008 - 34 comments

The N-word is dead

The N-word: 1786 - 2007.
posted by desjardins on Jul 10, 2007 - 82 comments

Etymologic!

Etymologic! - claims to be the toughest word game on the web.
posted by Burhanistan on May 4, 2007 - 53 comments

Wine Spodee-O-Dee, Drinkin' Wine

Spodee (among other spellings) is a Pacific Northwest party drink, a mixture of alcohol and fruit, frequently made in a trash can and left to marinate a day or two before the party. The origin of the word is unknown, but it seems likely to come from the classic R&B song "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" by Stick McGhee, which in 1949, was the first big hit record for Atlantic Records. (More inside, including links to sound files)
posted by litlnemo on Feb 1, 2006 - 60 comments

Test Your Word Power!

Test Your Word Power!
posted by johnny novak on Jan 6, 2006 - 37 comments

Ring-a-ring-a-what now?

Did you ever wonder where nursery rhymes came from? Of course, the etymology of some rhymes is contentious, but at least you can get the tune right [uses flash] while you argue about them.
posted by 5MeoCMP on Nov 10, 2005 - 16 comments

The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey

The Origins and Common Usage of British Swear-words.
posted by nthdegx on Jul 4, 2005 - 47 comments

Online Etymology Dictionary

Ever wondered why they use K to record a baseball strike? How about the origin of eavesdrop? What about vamping on a piano? All this and more at the Online Etymology Dictionary.
posted by xmutex on Dec 9, 2004 - 18 comments

To the French, it is the flower that thinks; what do the English call it?

Etymology-wise, which hormone is an island? What word both denotes a prime and euphemizes Satan? What word denotes "the future" and abbreviates the unknown? Is urine pith? These are some of the questions from "Moot: The World's Toughest Language Game," a homemade and little-known board game for lovers of words. Some puzzles are available online; there are a few more available on a page detailing the interesting story behind the game's creation. You can sign up to have a new language puzzle e-mailed to you every week.
posted by painquale on Dec 4, 2004 - 8 comments

101 words, and yet I cannot think of a clever title...

101 years in 101 words
posted by Orange Goblin on Oct 19, 2004 - 14 comments

A Chinese stuffed nose

The Chinese character meaning 'to have a stuffy nose'. A remark by a Chinese language student on the complexity of the aforementioned symbol turns into an interesting discussion, trawling through a very thick etymology, that almost makes me want to learn Chinese! Fascinating if you're into languages, Chinese or not.
posted by wackybrit on Sep 4, 2004 - 23 comments

eh?

Words: Woe & Wonder The CBC explains and debates usage from a Canadian-journalism standpoint - for example, why the Iraqi ex-leader is referred to by his first name and whether to capitalize this place.
posted by casarkos on Jul 15, 2004 - 8 comments

Onomatopoeia, gee it's good to see ya!

If you don't like dictionary posts, look away, NOW!
But if you like to play with words, the dictionarians at Merriam-Webster have announced the winners in their poll for the Ten Favorite Words for 2004:
defenestration, serendipity, onomatopoeia, discombobulate, plethora, callipygian, juxtapose, persnickety, kerfuffle and flibbertigibbet
Also, a list of runners-up with more of my personal faves: oxymoron, copacetic, curmudgeon, conundrum, euphemism, superfluous, and of course, Smock! Smock! Smock!
[more inside] Via vidiot.
posted by wendell on Jun 12, 2004 - 41 comments

OED new words

F-word now a word, as well as : twelve-incher, sheepshagger, and old man of the woods! The newest real English words now in the OED.
posted by mfoight on Mar 22, 2004 - 10 comments

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