Posts filtered by tags: James A. H. Murray[x]


 

A linguistic League of Nations

Some time ago, a question followed my discussion of sound-symbolic and sound-imitative sl-words (March 13, 2019): “What about slave?” Obviously, as I replied, not all words of a certain phonetic structure belong to the same homogeneous group. Yet ever since, I have been planning to write something about this tricky subject. Slave would not have deserved special attention if it were not so close to Slav. By way of introduction, I decided to devote some space to the use of ethnic names in words an...
Tags: Books, Britain, Pennsylvania, Geneva, Essex, Fowler, Hollander, CC BY SA, Hollands, Cobham Brewer, Hrothgar, James A H Murray, Hrothgar Beowulf, Wealhtheo, J R Skelton Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons As, André Chivinski


Up at Harwich and back home to the west via Skellig

A few more travels, and we’ll reach our destination. Last week (February 20, 2019), we spent some time in Coventry, where no one dispatched us: we went there driven by curiosity. It turned out that the melancholy idiom send one to Coventry may not have anything to do with that town. To reinforce this unexpected conclusion, I’ll relate another story. At one time, the phrase up at Harwich existed; perhaps it is still known in the eastern counties. Harwich is a port in Essex, and up at Harwich mean...
Tags: Europe, Books, England, London, China, America, Canada, Ireland, Catholic Church, Essex, Norfolk, Johnson, Coventry, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Warwick


The last shot at “robin”

What else is there to say about robin? Should I mention the fact that “two Robin Redbreasts built their nest within a hollow tree” and raised a family there? Those who grew up with Mother Goose know the touching story by heart. (Fewer and fewer students I teach have ever heard those poems and are amused when I quote them.) Incidentally, the fact that people coined the phrase robin redbreast shows how vague (“non-informative”) the word robin was. No one needs “a supplement” to woodpecker, swallow...
Tags: Books, London, Washington, Wikipedia, Robin Hood, United States, Oxford, Jack, Robin, PAUL, ROBBIN, Charles James, ENGL, Chatto, Noah Webster, James A H Murray


Feeling my oats for the last time this year

Having sown my wild oats (see the post for December 12, 2018), I can now afford the luxury of looking at the origin of the word oat. It would be unfair to introduce the holiday season by discussing a word of unknown etymology. A Christmas carol needs a happy end, and indeed I have something reassuring to say.The Latin for “oats” is avena, a word known to some from botany and to some from the family name Avenarius “pertaining to oats,” oaty, or oat–some, as it were. Two special terms exist: avena...
Tags: Books, UK, US, Murray, Avena, Walter W Skeat, Skeat, Oup, Wulfila, James A H Murray, Matthew XIII, Richard Avenarius, Hans Kuhn, Oatmeal Berries, Melissa Belanger, Kylo Public Domain


Plant lore: gorse

In the long history of this blog, I have rarely touched on the origin of plant names, but there have been posts on mistletoe (December 20, 2006) and ivy (January 11, 2017). Some time ago, a letter came with a question about the etymology of gorse, and I expect to devote some space to this plant name and its two synonyms.The word gorse has been known since the Old English period and once sounded as gors and gorst. No book I have consulted explains why two variants existed. At first blush, gors-t ...
Tags: Books, Oxford, Murray, Kay, ENGL, Walter W Skeat, Skeat, Noah Webster, NC ND, Wedgwood, Friedrich Kluge, Gerste, James A H Murray, Hensleigh Wedgwood, Levitsky, Charles Richardson


The amorous and other adventures of “poor pilgarlic”

The word pilgarlic (or pilgarlik and pilgarlick) may not be worthy of a post, but a hundred and fifty years ago and some time later, people discussed it with great interest and dug up so many curious examples of its use that only the OED has more. (Just how many citations the archive of the OED contains we have no way of knowing, for the printed text includes only a small portion of the examples James A. H. Murray and his successors received.) There is not much to add to what is known about the ...
Tags: Books, Featured, Boston, Language, Johnson, Shakespeare, West Midlands, Canterbury, George Eliot, Staffordshire, Ellesmere, Etymology, Garlic, Todd, Dickens, Jacob


Nine of diamonds, or the curse of Scotland: an etymological drama in two acts: Act 2, Scene 1

Battles, butchers, and tyrants “This is what remains of us after every battle.” Image credit: The front facing of the Culloden Cairn at Knoydart, Nova Scotia. Knoydart by Wreck Smurfy. CC by 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. CULLODEN. The battle of Culloden took place on 16 April 1746 between the forces of the Catholic “Young Pretender” Charles Edward Stuart, who was at the head of the Jacobites, and those of the government, led by Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland. Charles Edward is remembere...
Tags: Books, Scotland, Wikipedia, Catholic, William, Duke, Murray, Wikimedia Commons, Culloden, Annandale, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons, James Murray, James A H Murray, Bonnie Prince Charles, Ormiston, Nine of Diamonds


Trashing Thurse, an international giant

While working on my previous post (“What do we call our children?”), which, among several other words, featured imp, I realized how often I had discussed various unclean spirits in this blog. There was once an entire series titled “Etymological Devilry.” Over the years, I have dealt with Old Nick, grimalkin, gremlin, bogey, goblin, and ragamuffin, and in my recent book In Prayer and Laughter… there is a whole chapter on the creatures whose names begin with rag-, but the plate is still full. In 1...
Tags: Books, Featured, Charlotte Brontë, Charles, Beowulf, Guy Fawkes, Scott, Bessie, Bronte, Charles Scott, Joseph Wright, ENGL, Dictionaries & Lexicography, Oxford Etymologist, Walter W Skeat, Skeat


Etymology gleanings for April 2016

Spelling reform Responses to my plea for suggestions concerning spelling reform were very few. I think we can expect a flood of letters of support and protest only if at least part of the much-hoped-for change reaches the stage of implementation. I received one letter telling me to stop bothering about nonsense and to begin doing something sensible. This I think is good advice, even though in my case it came a bit too late. The problem is that one man’s meat (business) is another man’s poison (...
Tags: Books, Society, Language, Newcastle, Etymology, Murray, Vincent Van Gogh, Henley, Wikimedia Commons, South Sea, ENGL, Caxton, Dictionaries & Lexicography, Oxford Etymologist, *Featured, Anatoly Liberman