04 Oct 2021

Ham-Fisted + Pea-Brained

Q. What is it about we English and our food-based insults? . A. ‘Truly, thou art damned like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side.’ Shakespearean characters, like Court Jester Touchstone in As You Like It, excel in the art of food-based insult. ‘His brain,’ Jaques declares in Act 2

11 Sep 2021

Unsparing, Ungracious Un Words

Q. ‘Un’ words can seem unforgivably lazy. First, we invent a treasure cave of words. Then, we just slap ‘un’ on a bunch of them and claim the opposite meaning. Voila! Forgiving. Unforgiving. Grateful. Ungrateful. But, un words can also be unabashedly harsh. What are some of the most unencouraging

16 Aug 2021


Q. We’ve been waiting on them for centuries now, but what exactly are tenterhooks? . A. Thankfully, they are not as grisly as one might imagine. For those who haven’t heard the phrase, being ‘on tenterhooks’ means that you’re on edge, nervous, waiting painfully to find something out, or to

26 Jul 2021


Q. What are some lesser used words that describe archrivals or opponents? . A. In thinking about archrivals, we can start with the all-out despising, fight to the floor types we find in fiction: Holmes v. Moriarty, The Avengers v. Thanos, Harry Potter v. Voldemort, Jets v. Sharks. Then there

05 Jul 2021

New Beginnings

Q. As we emerge from hiding – some inch by inch, some with rocket boosters – many are thinking about how they might live their lives differently moving forward. As Nina Simone, then Michael Bublé sang: ‘It’s a new dawn, It’s a new day, It’s a new life for me…’

17 Jun 2021

All Cloaks, Few Daggers

Q. Who knew there were so many words for cloak-like overgarments. What are some lesser-known or historic cloak words? . A. Abolla A thick, woollen cloak worn in Ancient Rome. Artois A loose, long cloak favoured by European women in the 18th Century. Capuchin A cloak with a hood, traditionally

31 May 2021

Water Words

Q. What are some lesser known words related to nature wetness, to oceans, lakes, rivers.. . A. Bedewing Wet with dew, or something like it. Bight An open bay or bend in the coastline. Bore A steep wave, such as that caused by two tides coming together. Billabong Australian roots.

06 May 2021

Fisk, Fisk As Fast As You Can

Q. What are some little used or near-obsolete words to describe the act of running? . A. Absquattle To run away Dust To flee Fisk To run rather haphazardly Hie To move quickly Hobbledygee Somewhere between a walk and a jog Jaunce To run about willy nilly; to prance. As

14 Apr 2021

As If

Q. What makes some movie quotes so memorable? . A. Let’s start with The Hollywood Reporter’s 2016 poll of its readers around the most memorable movie quotes of all time. How many of the Top 10 can you place? Answers 👇🏼 . THR Top 10 Movie Quotes Poll i. “Frankly

22 Mar 2021

Time For A Zoom Hat

Q. The pandemic has not been kind to our hairdos. Some are letting locks grow where they will. Others are shopping for shears and going at it themselves. How many of us look like Thomas Gray’s 1757 poet in The Bard: A Pindaric Ode? ‘… With haggard eyes the poet