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

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

29 Oct 2021

Eat Your Words

Q. What are some forgotten or little used words related to eating or drinking? . A. Bags O’ Mystery Sausages. Nuff said Bellytimber Food Bever A snack Bibulous Related to or a fancy for alcoholic drinks Bouffage A spectacular feast Carousal A crazed party with much drinking Cibarious Food-related Collation

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