Urban Dictionary

Unless you are hyperlexic, you’ll sometimes be wondering what a word means, even if you are a native speaker of English.

So to help you along, here is one of my favourite websites, which covers both British and American English.

Introducing you to Urban Dictionary.

Much to my chagrin, however, they have ceased producing the Urban Dictionary block calendar, which always used to adorn my desk at work.

Schade.

Enjoy the website, and don’t be a bucket mouth!

Have a lexical day, won’t you!

black and white book business close up

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Now just hang on…

Today I want to talk about hanging.  No, I’m only pulling your leg.  Where does that expression come from?  It’s actually quite macabre, and linked to capital punishment.

The “modern, humane” method of hanging as a form of execution is to break a bone in the neck, causing instant death.  The old method was, in short, strangulation, a method which was slow and painful.  (As an aside: some of the executions at the end of the Nuremberg Trials were badly botched, leading to some of the condemned men dying very, very slowly and agonisingly: 15 to 30 minutes in several cases.)

“I’m only pulling your leg”, meaning “I’m only gently teasing you”, goes back to the days when your friends would try to shorten your agony as you were slowly strangled to death at the end of a rope.  They were literally trying to put you out of your misery by trying to force air out of your body and send you unconscious.

Fancy a gala day out?  Guess what.  That comes from the days when watching the public hangings was pretty much a spectator sport, a family day out, if you like, when everyone would go down to the gallows.

Are you on the wagon?  Not drinking?  When the condemned man was being transported on a donkey-drawn cart from prison to the gallows, he would be allowed to stop off at the pubs on the way to execution.  If he decided not to pop into the pub for a quick half, he would stay on the wagon.  There is even a pub in Abingdon in Oxfordshire called The Broad Face.  Legend has it, this is because the pub was located opposite a prison where old-method hanging was carried out.  I won’t go into the physiological details here…

Have a gala day, won’t you!

SOS, -Ess Suffix

It’s been a quiet evening at home.  Nothing on TV.  (This is Germany.)  Nothing on radio, well apart from the sad, sad story of Hartlepool football club.  I’ve been thinking about our mother tongue, post-Norman demotic Anglo-Saxon.

Random thoughts: is the -ess suffix now dead, moribund, obsolete or obsolescent.  Who says or writes the following words any more?

  • Authoress
  • Editress
  • Manageress

All that seems to be left is “waitress” (which I think has been replaced by the gender-neutral word, “server” in the USA).  Oh yes, and “mistress.”  Ah, and there’s also “goddess” and “princess.”  (I guess the first two serve, the latter two are served.)

What has caused this suffix to become obsolescent?  Are native-speakers of our language much less sexist than a generation ago, when many a shop would have a manageress (sic).  That reminds me, I must look up that story I found a while back about obsolete words, such as “aerodrome.”  Doubtless my Irish fellow blogger has a better idea than I. 🙂

Have an obsolescent day, won’t you!

Feeling quite chuffed actually

There you go.  The title is a British is you can get.  Actually.

Three quarters of the way through the year 2017, and I’ve written a daily entry in my Moleskine A5 size diary for every day bar about five or six days.  (That was the old-fashioned way of blogging.)  My best year (so far – three months to go) ever.

I guess it’s a case of self-discipline and just getting into the habit.

Still more Adrian Mole than Samuel Pepys, however. 🙂

Have an entry a day, won’t you!

The Evolving English Language: Part 83

I love seeing how languages evolve.  That’s why I loved CSP (Comparative Slavonic Philology) in final year at university.

  • Why is there an “h” in “ghost”?  Because Caxton employed Dutch typesetters on his printing presses, and they were used to seeing an “h” in their word for “ghost.”  In it went…
  • But then, why do we call the people from the Netherlands the “Dutch”?  Because the people from the Netherlands and the people from modern-day Germany were seen as one and the same people.  Hence “Deutsch” becomes “Dutch.”
  • Ain’t no doubt about that.  But what about the word “ain’t”?  Until the late 1700’s, “ain’t” was, in fact, the perfectly correct shortened form of “[I] am not.”
  • As for “its”, this is a relatively new word in modern English.  Up until the late 1600’s the word “his” was used in relation to both “he” and “it.”
    • That man: his head.
    • That book: his author.
      • Just like in modern German.
        • Dieser Mann: sein Kopf.
        • Dieser Buch: sein Autor.
    • An intermediate step was the “there[proposition] because not everyone liked to use the word its, eg:
      • Parts thereof
      • Therein lies the message
  • Mad as a hatter?  Hatters used mercury to clean dust off hats.  Breathe in mercury vapour, and it’ll cause brain damage.  And why call a hatter a “milner”?  Because Milan in Italy was famous for hat-making.

Finally a clip that may appeal to all the etymologists out there, even if you are not that interested in insects.

Have a lexical day, won’t you!