Apr
08
2014
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Is etymology fun?

Etymology of "mother" from "The Story of Mankind" by Hendrik van Loon (PD-EXP)I think etymology, the study of the history of words, is fun. That is probably only because I don’t have to study words. I am just curious about some words, when I suddenly have a question about one. If you are reading this, you probably know the feeling and also probably recognize the similarity of [more...]

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Feb
06
2012
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What is dupion silk?

dupion silkDupion silk fabric is not “as smooth as silk”. The texture is uneven with intermittent stretches of nubbly thread in the weave. It may be used for elegant clothing and furnishings now, but it had to overcome its original reputation for being an inferior, rough silk. Making silk begins with gathering heaps of silkworm cocoons. [more...]

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Oct
22
2010
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What is an etagere?

etagere design american 1850sWhat makes an etagere different from other sets of shelves? The name came into fashion in the 1850s when English adopted the French word étagère for a piece of furniture with open shelves for ornaments and oddments. The etagere was a decorative piece made from hardwood by a cabinet-maker. It looked good in a drawing-room [more...]

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Aug
19
2010
2

What trimmings suit a full-skirted Victorian wedding dress design?

Victorian wedding dress, full skirt, flounces, veilWhite wedding dresses were popular in fashionable circles by the mid-19th century, even though many brides still chose other colours. The idea of a once-in-a-lifetime wedding dress was more flexible than today, and wearing white was quite a new fashion. Victorian dresses that look very “bridal” to us now were almost the same as evening [more...]

Aug
06
2010
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What are the other animal words like “canine” and “feline”?

asinine-donkeyMost people are familiar with the words canine (relating to dogs) and feline (relating to cats), but many other animals or animal groups get their own adjective. These are called collateral adjectives, and are generally derived from the genitive form of the Latin genus name. Here is a list of collateral adjectives. Ant: myrmecine. Bear: [more...]

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Jul
16
2010
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What do people in France call styles that we call French?

french twist chignon bananeWhen we say French twist, French manicure, French cuffs etc. are these truly French fashions? French people call the chic hairstyle we know as a French twist or French roll a chignon banane (banana bun). On the other hand, a French braid or French plait has the same name in France – tresse française – [more...]

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Jun
26
2010
5

What does a bra have to do with arms and the man?

bra-fenceBras don’t have anything to do with Arms And The Man (if you are thinking Hemingway’s book of that name), nor with the opening line of Virgil’s Aeneid: “Arma virumque cano …”. However, there is a connection between the word brassiere and arms and men of arms. In French the word for arm is bras, [more...]

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Jun
25
2010
1

Why is soccer called football in some countries?

soccer-footballA journalist in The Times of London recently bemoaned the use of the Americanism “soccer”, but in so doing he displayed his ignorance, for soccer is an English word. It has fallen into disuse in England but remains in use in the US, in Australia, and in many other countries. If we go back far [more...]

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Mar
17
2010
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Do lingonberries have a traditional English name?

lingonberries or cowberriesOver the last few years lingonberry has become a fairly familiar English word. Thanks to a well-known Swedish furniture store putting lingonberry jam, jelly, and cordial on its shelves, and a few foody articles in lifestyle sections of the newspapers, many of us have a general idea that this small red berry is from Scandinavia, [more...]

Jan
03
2010
2

What are parts of speech?

grammar game“Parts of speech” refers to categories that are used by grammarians to describe how words are used in sentences. English has traditionally been viewed as having eight parts of speech, as follows: Nouns are words that represent persons, places, things or ideas. In the sentence “Life is good,” “life” is a noun. Pronouns are words [more...]

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