Category Archives: Word of the Week

wotw

Petty is no small thing in English

Petty is an interesting word in English. It is essentially a direct phonemic steal from French petite for small. As a stand-alone word petty means small minded, it is almost a contraction of petty-minded, which, of course, is the same thing. But petty has quite a few uses in English that don’t have the same disparaging...
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Why do barbarians drink beer?

The Ancient Greeks and Romans, who provided the starting points for many European languages, were not beer drinkers. Beer was (as probably some would think now) a drink of the barbarian peoples (although the Egyptians and Persians did also enjoy a pint). Beer is our word of the week. Although not a common drink in Ancient...
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Dr Johnson’s curmudgeon

Curmudgeon, the word for a surly or miserly person, first appeared in 1577 in Richard Stanyhurst's Description of Ireland which suggests an Irish origin. It may have been borrowed from Gaelic and one suggestion is a reference to  muigean for a disagreeable person. One of the greatest men of letters in the English language, Dr Samuel...
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Tsundoku—piling up the borrow word

English is a great language for English speakers because if it doesn’t have a word for something we just take one from another language. Called loanwords, English has borrowed thousands of them. English has taken café from French, pyjamas from Hindi, assassin from Arabic, and the list goes on. In Australia we have borrowed many...
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