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

17 Jan 2022

As Merry As A Cricket

Q. In his 1653 Complete Herbal, botanist Nicholas Culpeper wrote: ‘the decoction of the thistle in wine being drank, expels superfluous melancholy out of the body, and makes a man as merry as a cricket.’ ‘As merry as a cricket’. That’s not something one hears much in 2022. What are

30 Dec 2021

Wintry Words

Q. Here in B.C., we are breaking ❄️ temperature records all over the place, and looking at unusually high mounds of snow. What are some forgotten or little used words related to winter, snow, and cold? . A. Algid Feeling cold or chilly Apricity That wonderful moment when the sun

23 Dec 2021

Due For A Purple Patch

Q. What are some English idioms that reflect the hope that things just have to get better… at some point.   A. Due for a purple patch A purple patch is a sustained period of good luck and serious success. The expression stems back to Imperial Rome, where only emperors

02 Dec 2021

Of Pugs

Q. Pugs have played an outsized role in fiction. Jane Austen brings us Mansfield Park’s Lady Bertram who would rather spend time with her pug than her children. ‘To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was

13 Nov 2021

Odd Words For Everyday Things

Q. What is that thing called again? . A. Thanks to Phineas and Ferb, millions of families now know the name of the small, protective metal or plastic tube at the end of a shoelace. All together now… the aglet. What are some other unusual words that describe the things