Wayward Words with Meanings That Went Astray


Cheater wearing cheaters? After Reymerswaele/ Wikimedia Commons

People sometimes tell you you’re misusing a word and cite the Latin origin as proof. Don’t fall for the etymological fallacy. What a word means depends, not on its origin, but on how speakers of a language understand it. Over time, words have a way of wandering and meanings mutate. If you stuck with older meanings of the following words, you could end up in a strange land where “naughty” is the same as “nice” and “awesome” means “terrible.”  More…

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Fruitful Expressions or Why There Are No Plums in Plum Pudding

From sweet lemons to sour grapes, the fleshy, edible, seed-bearing parts of plants are a fruitful source of terms and phrases.

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“Fruit Dreams” by Judith B. Herman

Pick a juicy crop here.

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Jazz, Blues & Babes: The Latest Words from 1915


 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Terms that first appeared in print in 1915 reveal something about life a hundred years ago. Although the war in Europe left its mark on the lexicon, there are also signs of the changing times in arts and culture.

See some surprising 100-year-old words here.

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The Biggest Mystery about English Crime Shows: British Legal Terms You Meant to Look Up

Love British courtroom dramas like “Rumpole of the Bailey,” “Kavanaugh, QC” and “Silk” but a bit muddled on the difference between a silk and a stipe? Get your ducks in a row here. (Thanks to former London solicitor Dana F. Barraclough for assistance on this post.)

BarristerPhoto: Wikimedia Commons SouthbankSteve


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Spanish Surnames That Reveal Family History

A Barbero is a barber, but a Cantero is not a cantor. Do you know what the ancestors of people named Ballestero and Verdugo did? Find out here.

 Spanish surnames 512px-Varlet_or_Squire_carrying_a_Halberd_with_a_thick_Blade_and_Archer_in_Fighting_Dress_drawing_the_String_of_his_Crossbow_with_a_double_handled_WinchSource

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Decoding British Pub Menus

pub 502px-The_Queens_Arms_pub_-_Charlotte_Street_-_Birmingham_-_2005-10-14

Photo  Source

Fancy a pudding wine? How about jugged hare and a side of rocket and baps? Bit of a muddle? No worries, luv. This glossary will set you right: http://mentalfloss.com/article/58701/28-keys-decoding-british-pub-menus

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Some Occupations You’ve Never Heard of Revealed in English Surnames

It’s easy to guess what an ancestor of someone named Cook, Carpenter, or Smith did for a living. With other occupational surnames, though, either the word or the trade has become obsolete, so the meaning is hidden. Can you guess what a forbisher or a kisser did? http://mentalfloss.com/article/58605/30-family-secrets-hiding-english-surnames

What surnames would you dream up based on present-day occupations?

Here’s the original Webster: Wikimedia Commons: Common garden spider, underside, spinning web. source:me {{GFDL}}

spider Araneus_diadematus_underside_1

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