Category Archives: Word of the Week


Flibbertigibbet, a will-‘o-the-wisp, a clown

The flibbertigibbet misunderstanding

In the heat of a moment, and what I thought was great foolhardiness, I called my wife a flibbertigibbet. I was cross with her for trying to do too many things at once and consequently getting nothing done. Surprisingly, she took it quite well, which made me think I had, perhaps, misunderstood what...
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Petty is no small thing in English

Petty is an interesting word used in some quite different ways. 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 tone. Petty cash is...
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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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