Mince Pies

It’s Christmas Eve, and many of you, especially in the UK and Ireland, will be enjoying some mince pies today. If you’re unfamiliar with these delicious treats, they’re little sweet pies with a filling of dried fruit, jam, and spices. But no minced meat. What’s up with the name then?

Continue reading

Colon

While writing about military ranks last week, I wondered if the word colony, which I’d touched on briefly the week before, was related to the word column, from whose Italian translation the word colonel comes from.

My mind then thought of other words, like colony and colon: maybe they could be related too. Colony, maybe that comes from the Latin for column, columna, because it originally referred to a garrison town, where a column of soldiers were stationed. That sounds plausible, doesn’t it?

Continue reading

In One Fell Swoop

In a news article today about the new US tax bill, the writer said:

In one fell swoop, the Republicans have introduced some of the largest changes…

In one fell swoop is a pretty common phrase, perhaps almost to the point of cliché. But where does it come from, and what exactly does it mean?

Continue reading

Train

Recently, I’ve noticed, while looking at my blog statistics (it’s very addictive), that someone has been getting here by searching for the word train. Sometimes, it’s quite obvious which posts search terms bring people to. Other times, it’s not so clear. At first I thought that it was bringing people to this post, somewhat related to trains. But then, not really related either. I was curious, so I checked what posts people had read the days someone had searched for train.

It turns out it brought them to this post, about the term gravy train. And then I thought that if they were really looking for some information about the word train, that post would’t really help them at all. And then, I began to think that train is actually quite an interesting word…

Continue reading

Duck!

A duck is an aquatic animal, found in freshwater environments around the world.

I probably haven’t blown your mind by telling you that. Nor, I’m sure, will I do so by telling you that to duck is a verb meaning to quickly dip your head. I may, however, surprise you slightly by telling you which word came first.

Continue reading

Racking my Brain

Writing yesterday’s post, I came to a point where I wanted to use the phrase racking their brain. A few words before I got to the point where I had to type it though, I paused: was it wracking their brain?

I’ve never been sure how to spell it, and it’s not something I often have to write, so I never had to look it up. At least until yesterday anyway, so to satisfy all our curiosity, here’s the answer…

Continue reading