24 Nov 2020

2020 Word Of The Year

Q. It’s that time. What is Oxford English Dictionary’s official word of 2020? . A. 2020 is such a hot mess, it broke the dictionary. ‘Given the phenomenal breadth of language change and development during 2020, Oxford Languages concluded that this is a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in

16 Nov 2020

Famous Authors’ Favourite Words

Q. Have you ever stumbled into the fact that you use the same handful of quirky words over and over again: in writing, in emails, in phone conversations? Or perhaps you too have found yourself presenting to a group and suddenly, for no conscious reason, the same word keeps popping

23 Oct 2020

Forecast Rain

Q. Come late fall and winter, world-weary weather folk in B.C. have to look for awfully creative ways to deliver the same news: it’s raining. Or it may rain. A lot. Hurrah for those days of crisp sun or a dusting of snow. But, what are some old or little-used

04 Oct 2020


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

21 Sep 2020

In Full Fig

Q. What are some lesser used idioms? . A. They are awfully stubborn. The elephants refuse to leave the room, the thoughts cower inside the box, and the tattered idioms worm their way back into innocent conversations. The Oxford Dictionary of Idioms houses thousands of these ‘phrases that behave like words.’

05 Sep 2020

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

24 Aug 2020

Release The Gjetost

Q. We’ve seen how one Norwegian word – kraken – has been assertively adopted into English conversation. But what other words have we eagerly co-opted from Norway? . A. The answer lies in The Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words + Phrases. With definitions in our own words … Aquavit A

31 Jul 2020

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

20 Jul 2020

Callithump Clatter

Q. What are some lesser used or unusual words relating to sound? A. Incoming. You’ll note that, for some of the words below, I’ve only included their sound-related meanings. Asperity Rough sound. Harsh tone. Bombilation A thrumming, humming, endlessly buzzing sound. Borborygmus A rumbling of the intestines as gas passes

06 Jul 2020

Beautiful Old

Q. How do the words we use affect our impressions of people, places, ideas or things that are ‘old?’ . A. Kintsugi. It’s a gorgeous word used to describe the Japanese practice of repairing broken ceramics with gold-dusted tree sap lacquer. No tossing that vase because it’s broken in half.