The Unfortunate Dys

The prefix dys- derives from the Greek and has a number of unfavourable meanings. In Greek, using this prefix denoted the opposite of anything that was easy, favourable or fortunate, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology. Connotations include: impaired, defective, difficult, slow, wrong, ill, harsh, disordered and bad. There are a number of common … Read more

Bouillon vs. Bullion vs. Boolean

Don’t confuse bouillon with bullion–one is a soup ingredient and the other is gold. Both bouillon and bullion come from Old French, and in fact the same root word, boillon–which refers to the froth on the top of a boiling cauldron. They are pronounced almost the same: Merriam-Webster says that bouillon should be said BOOL-yon, … Read more

Fun With Words: Palindromes

Palindromes are words, phrases or number sequences that read the same way in both directions. Palindrome derives from the Greek for ‘running back again’. Both the Greeks and Romans are known to have enjoyed palindromes. The Greeks also published palindromic poetry. Common words that are palindromes include: civic eye level nun pop radar Some famous … Read more

Months: A History Of Time

Our calendar has changed a lot over the years, but in early Roman times there were only ten months. It was not until 700 BC that the last two months were added by Nuna Pompilus, Rome’s second king, and the calendar got a further shake up in 46 BC when Julius Caesar reformed it, changing … Read more

Rite, Write, Right, Wright

Here are four frequently misspelled words that your computer Spell Check won’t catch. A rite is a ceremonial act. Ex. Catholics celebrate the rite of the Mass. A boy’s first haircut is a rite of passage. The form write is the present tense form of the verb to write. Ex. Please write me a letter. … Read more

A Sweet Story About Marmalade

The other day I was watching the last episode of the Parkinson Show (a UK talk show), when Michael Caine told a story about the origin of the word marmalade. The word refers to a jelly like preserve, usually made of citrus fruits, in which bits of the fruit and rind are suspended. According to … Read more

Positions, Please

Getting the right position is not just about making a good career move or finding your spot on the stage. There are several words that refer to the different positions in which you can lie. Some of these are not just about the body, but about the attitude. Here are some examples. In the 16th … Read more

The Yiddish Handbook: 40 Words You Should Know

The Yiddish language is a wonderful source of rich expressions, especially terms of endearment (and of course, complaints and insults). This article is a follow up on Ten Yiddish Expressions You Should Know. Jewish scriptwriters introduced many Yiddish words into popular culture, which often changed the original meanings drastically. You might be surprised to learn … Read more

Words for Telling the Future

Even as scientists explore Quantum Theory, ancient practices for divining the future continue to flourish. Ronald and Nancy Reagan regularly consulted astrologers, and many newspaper readers check the astrology column before looking at anything else. Tarot readers and palm readers make a living at it. Here are some words writers might want to use in … Read more

Days: A History Of Time

The history of the names of the days of the week is a tangled one. The Greeks named the days of the week after their gods, but when the Romans were supreme, they substituted the names of their favorite gods for the original Greek names. However, with English being a Germanic language, it’s perhaps no … Read more

Time Words: Era, Epoch, and Eon

Sports writers are fond of saying that the retirement of someone or other marks “the end of an era.” What is an era? And is it different from an epoch? What about an eon? All three words denote a period of time. All three have specialized meanings for geologists. Here are their most common meanings … Read more

Festive Words

I love the Christmas season. The process of decorating, choosing gifts with care, preparing seasonal food and spending time with friends and family really appeals to me. With that in mind, here are the origins of some popular seasonal words. decorate Meaning to adorn, decorate dates from the 16th century. However, its seasonal meaning of … Read more