Liquid and Other Types of Lunch

Until recently, I’d assumed that lunch was a clipping of luncheon. Come to find out, the words originated separately.

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  • Maeve Maddox on
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Without Let

The English word let functions as a verb, a noun, and an adjective. Its use as a noun meaning hindrance or obstacle dates to the twelfth century. An obsolete meaning of let as a verb is “hinder or prevent.” This is the meaning of let in the King James translation of Romans 1:13.

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  • Maeve Maddox on
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Synonyms for “Answer”

Answer is a word of noble pedigree—it dates back nearly a thousand years in its original sense of “swear against” (from Old English andswaru). However, it’s bland and neutral, and a variety of synonyms with more precise connotations exist.

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  • Mark Nichol on
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75 Names of Unusual or Obsolete Occupations

The English language abounds with word describing occupations and professions that are rare or obsolete or are otherwise unusual and hence obscure. Here is an incomplete but extensive list of such terms, along with brief definitions.

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  • Mark Nichol on
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Bingeing or Binging?

What’s the rule for attaching an -ing ending to a one-syllable, short-vowel word ending in -ge? Is the act of doing something too much, for example, an instance of bingeing, or has one been binging?

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  • Mark Nichol on
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10 Words Derived from “Scribe”

Scribe, from the Latin term scribere, meaning “to write,” referred to a person who performed the responsibilities of an accountant, a secretary, or both but later denoted any writer. (Scrivener is a synonym from medieval Anglo-French.) The term is rarely used outside of historical contexts but occasionally appears as affected slang to refer to a professional author or writer; the same is true of its use as a verb to refer to the action of writing.

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The Multiple Meanings of “Hail”

Hail is also used as an interjection to acclaim (“Hail to the chief!”) or salute (“Hail, fellow well met!”) someone, though it’s an archaic usage rarely applied anymore. This meaning stems from the Old Norse word heill, used for the same purpose but derived from that word’s original meaning, “healthy.” The homophone hale, rarely used outside of the expression “hale and hearty,” carries a connotation of good health persisting into old age. (The archaic salutation wassail, with a second syllable sharing the same etymology, stems from an Old Norse exhortation to be well; modern usage refers to a hot alcoholic drink served from a bowl at a Christmas celebration, or to revelry in general.)

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  • Mark Nichol on
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Inundating and Drowning

In each example, “by water” is redundant. As a transitive verb, inundate means “to overspread with a flood of water.” It does make sense to add a prepositional phrase if something other than water—or a specific kind of water— is doing the overflowing.

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  • Maeve Maddox on
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70 Words and Phrases to Identify a Horse

An extensive vocabulary surrounds the various subjects pertaining to horses. Below is a list of contemporary and historical words and phrases referring to horses distinguished by characteristics such as color or type of use (but not by breed—hundreds of distinct breeds exist). Some entries also include other meanings for the terms.

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  • Mark Nichol on
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Ever and Never

Ever and never are adverbs employed in strictly defined ways. Here are the parameters of usage for the two terms.

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Sort and Out of Sorts

A second meaning of sort is “a measure of weight for figs and raisins,” not a use likely to be encountered even by a lover of early English texts.

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  • Maeve Maddox on
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