I discovered an interesting bit of etymology recently. I was reading SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. In a chapter about work and business, she mentioned a Latin word – otium. Continue reading
You may have said this today, in frustration perhaps, or in anger. Maybe it wasn’t quite as long as that. Maybe it was just a quick, cathartic Argh! I’m sure it’s something we’ve all said at least a few times in our lives. Did you ever wonder why it’s spelled in such a strange way though? Continue reading
You may know that a blurb is any text on the back cover (or occasionally inside the dust jacket) of a book. The word is generally associated with quotes from authors or reviewers praising the book, but it can also refer to any text, like a plot summary, author biography, or information about the series the book belongs to. Continue reading
What do you Call a French Muggle?
Un non-magique, apparently.
Before I go any farther, I should explain that I’m talking about Harry Potter.
A Dark Horse
He’s a dark horse, isn’t he?
How would you describe the expression a dark horse to somebody who’d never heard it before? After thinking for a moment, you might say it’s a person of hidden depths or secret talents/opinions, someone who achieves something when no-one expected that they might. You might give an example of a quiet student in a language class who suddenly speaks confidently and fluently in an oral exam.
Sunshine Blogger Award
Well, I know I said I’d write something about grammar or etymology, but then, how can one turn down the Sunshine Blogger Award? And there are plenty of more days ahead in which to indulge myself in the riches of English, so why not have a little break, eh, to enjoy a little sunshine? I probably won’t have to use so many italics on this one, and formatting all of those can be tiring.
So, I have to say a big thank you to Parvathy Sarat for her nomination. It’s an honour, and I strongly recommend you check out her blog, Trust Me, You’re Alive. How could you resist such a fascinating variety of topics as written by a scribbler, dancer, dog-lover, and an overthinker? Certainly three of those four describe me (I’ll let you decide which), so obviously her posts are great reading.
Let’s do this then.
Words I Don’t Know
Why no!, not, in fact, a blank page, but rather a continuation of the theme of what I don’t know about English (though you can expect this to be a very short series of articles). Today I want to have a look at the last book I’ve read: Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut. Like most books I read, it was a second-hand copy from my favourite bookshop, and one of the previous owners had underlined a lot of words. I didn’t think too much of this at first: there are often handwritten notes and underlined sections in second-hand books. That’s part of the appeal of second-hand books: the feeling that they’ve already had a full life (it must have been some journey to get from S&S Books in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop in Galway, Ireland), and the knowledge that someone else got to appreciate them. This case was slightly different though, because there were just individual words underlined, and no notes in the margins. I soon realised that these words were underlined because the previous reader hadn’t understood them. How did I come to realise this? Because I didn’t know most of them either.