26 Sep 2022

Liverpudlian Bites

Q. For many of us, the stressors of the outside world are eased by the balm of ‘feel good’ television, as the streamers call it: light competition, easy banter, time-pressured creativity. The Great British Baking Show – and its predecessor The Great British Bake Off – doubles down on the

14 Sep 2022

Old Words For New Scandals

Q. Scandals are piling up so quickly these days, it’s hard to keep them straight. Wait, who did that again? We’re going to need some more descriptors; one story sounds just like the last. Are there any ancient or abandoned words ready to spring back into action? . A. The

01 Aug 2022

Hot Words

Q. What are some forgotten or little-used words relevant to hot, hot weather? Asking for a A. Apricate To luxuriate in the hot sun. Caldarium The hottest room in Roman baths. Calefaction You’re getting warmer. Calid Burning, scalding hot. Canicular Steaming, muggy hot. Dankish Humid, sticky. Drouth Good clothes-drying weather.

24 Jun 2022

Leap Less

Q. What are some idioms that caution us to avoid being too rash or impulsive? . A. Not surprisingly – given our well-documented human impetus for action – there are lots. This, particularly, when we’re courting danger! So, the don’ts follow… • Buy a pig in a poke • Carry

22 May 2022

Anger Like A Full-Hot Horse

Q. Our animal friends (well, some of these friendships are best pursued from a distance) have inspired an impressive list of similes. What kinds of animal similes did Shakespeare use? . A. The Bard was ‘smooth as oil’ in his use of  animal similes. His, of course, are cut in

05 May 2022

Faint Praise

Q. What are some allegedly encouraging – or, at least, mildly positive – words that don’t feel so encouraging when offered as personal feedback? . A. Brave Not, of course, in the sword-wielding, evil-smiting context. Rather, when you’ve taken a creative risk – say, in an audition or performing arts

04 Apr 2022

Happy Tell A Lie Day …?

Q. Today has the dubious distinction of being ‘National Tell A Lie Day’. Not sure, in today’s climate, if we should be encouraging such a thing? Perhaps this is meant in the spirit of extended April Fools’ Day pranks. Let’s hope we can muscle through to April 30th – National

19 Mar 2022


Q. What is it with English and all of its words that have opposite or near opposite meanings, like ‘dust’ or ‘seed’, for instance? . A. These contranyms are yet another reason why people find English so difficult to learn. These pesky contradictions are also called Janus words after the

28 Feb 2022

Of Remarkable Bravery

Q. As we look to the horrors in Ukraine, it is stunning to watch the incredible courage of the Ukrainians who find themselves under the most extreme of threats. 🙏🏼 What are some lesser used words that relate to the concept of bravery? . A. Doughty Having deep courage. Hard

07 Feb 2022

Starts with S, ends with X

Q. What are some of the euphemisms that polite – or seemingly polite – society have used to describe love (or lust) making over the centuries? . A. . Amorous congress . Basket-making . Behind door work . A bit of summer cabbage . Blanket hornpipe . Boil the cabbage