06 Nov 2022

Ew. This Food Tastes …

Q. Just how many words can fussy/displeased diners use to describe what’s on their plates? . A. A great many, as it turns out. A sampling … Acrid An overwhelmingly unpleasant, strong taste. Amaroidal Bitter. Blinky Going sour. Used to describe milk that’s on its way off. Brackish A bit

26 Sep 2022

Liverpudlian Bites

Q. In 2018, author Tony Crowley created a ‘Liverpool English Dictionary’. The Beatles want to know: what delights lie within? . A. In this 2018 ‘Liverpool English Dictionary’, author Tony Crowley describes the language of Liverpool as a ‘city vernacular’ rather than a dialect. It is the language of 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

22 Aug 2022

Is My Jam Your Jam?

Q. Overheard: “Biz Dev is my jam!” How does that sentence make you feel? i. Cool! Right. Biz Dev. Jam. ii. Meh. iii. Eww. How did the latter phrase – ‘my jam’ – come to represent something the speaker particularly likes? . A. Being ‘jammed’ can be associated with unpleasantness

29 Jun 2022

Honey Moon?

Q. How did post-wedding bliss travel come to be called a ‘honeymoon’? . A. Some say the just-wedded bliss of the ‘honeymoon’ – or the ‘hony moone’ as it was called in Olde English – gets its name from the sweetness of honey and the short-lived prominence of the moon.

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