Tag Archives: grammar
Shrove Tuesday – le Mardi gras

Shrove Tuesday – le Mardi gras

  le carnaval de la mi-carême, Nantes (France) – photograph: MaxPPP/France-Soir         Shrovetide is the period comprising Quinquagesima Sunday, or Shrove Sunday, and the two following days, Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday. It immediately precedes Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. (Quinquagesima is short for ecclesiastical Latin quinquagesima dies, fiftieth day, because, […]

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to run amok

    MEANING   The adverb amok, also spelt amuck, is used in the phrase to run amok, which means to behave uncontrollably and disruptively.     ORIGIN   Via Spanish amuco and Portuguese amouco, amok is from a Malay word thus defined by Charles Payson Gurley Scott in The Malayan Words in English (1897): āmuḳ, […]

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pilgrim

pilgrim

  Canterbury Cathedral     The Latin adjective pereger/-gris, composed of per, through, and ager/agri, a field, a land, literally meant who has gone through lands, hence who is on a journey, away from home. From this adjective was derived the adverb peregri, peregre, meaning abroad, and to, or from, foreign parts. This in turn […]

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jewel – bijou

jewel – bijou

  Horace Walpole (circa 1756-57), by Sir Joshua Reynolds image: National Portrait Gallery       The noun jewel, which dates back to the late 13th century, is from Old French and Anglo-Norman forms such as juel, jeuiel, jouel, joyel, etc. The plural forms were juaux, jeuiauls, jouaux, joyaulx, etc. This is why the modern […]

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to eavesdrop

    MEANING   to listen secretly to a conversation     ORIGIN   The obsolete noun eavesdrop denoted the dripping of water from the eaves of a building and the space of ground which is liable to receive the rain-water thrown off by the eaves of a building. This noun, which dates back to […]

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motherese

motherese

  Elissa Lee Newport – image: The Franklin Institute       In social psychology and linguistics, motherese, or Motherese, denotes a simplified form of language used especially by mothers in speaking to babies and young children, characterised by repetition, simple sentence structure, limited vocabulary, onomatopoeia, and expressive intonation. This term is composed of the […]

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‘Noel’

      MEANINGS   – Noel, or Noël: Christmas, especially on Christmas cards and as a refrain in carols – noel, or noël: a Christmas carol     ORIGIN   This noun is from Anglo-Norman and Middle French forms such as Noël, Noel (modern French Noël), variants of forms such as Naël, Nael, first attested […]

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glamour

      MEANING   an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing     ORIGIN   It was originally a Scottish alteration of grammar. The noun grammar is from Old French forms such as gramaire (modern French grammaire), from Latin grammatica (ars), from Greek γραμματική (τέχνη) (= grammatike (tekhne)), […]

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thoughtlet

thoughtlet

  Robert Browning (circa 1888)       The noun thoughtlet, composed of the noun thought and the diminutive suffix -let (as in booklet), denotes a small or insignificant thought. Its first known user is the English poet Ebenezer Elliott (1781-1849) in Peter Faultless to his Brother Simon (1820): Is there a sage of titum-tumti […]

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nonplus

    MEANING   a state in which one is unable to proceed or decide; inability to say or do more; a state of perplexity or puzzlement     ORIGIN   From scholastic disputation, this noun is from Latin non plus, meaning not more, no further, composed of non, not, and plus, more. It is […]

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