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14 Feb 2018

For Valentine’s Day, from HH’s Accidental Dictionary, here’s the history of why “flirting” originally meant “sneering”... 

When the word flirt first fluttered into life in the language back in the late Middle Ages, it originally referred to a sudden, short twitching or jerking movement.

It’s thought...

21 Dec 2016

The final entry in our series of extracts from the new HH book, The Accidental Dictionary, is the confusing story behind the original fiasco... 

Imagine you’re at the theatre. The show gets off to an inauspicious start when the curtain fails to open properly, and then, as the first performer takes to...

13 Dec 2016

Next in our series of extracts from The Accidental Dictionary is the story of the earliest fetishes—which weren’t quite what you might expect them to be...

 (Image credit: Public domain)

In 1689, a young British chaplain named John Ovington was hired by the East India Company to travel to Asia to...

7 Dec 2016

The latest entry in our series of extracts from The Accidental Dictionary is the story behind the tiddlywink—which began life not as a game, but as a place. And even when it finally did become a game, it wasn’t originally the one you think it was...  

One of the earliest recorded references...

29 Nov 2016

Third in our series of extracts from The Accidental Dictionary is the story behind a pejorative term that not only changed its meaning, but changed its sex...

Derived from an Italian word for a baby boy (a baby girl would be a bimba), when the word bimbo first emerged in American slang in the early 1...

25 Nov 2016

It’s by no means unusual for words to change their meaning, often quite dramatically, as they’re passed down from decade and decade, and from century to century, through the language. Sometimes however, those changes can be quite surprising—which is the point of the new HH book, The Accidental Dicti...

24 Nov 2016

Perspective wasn’t popular among eighteenth-century artists 

(Image credit: Wikipedia/Public domain

Second in our series of extracts from the new HH book, The Accidental Dictionary, is the bizarre story behind a word for bad behaviour...

It’s tempting to think that as another word for disreputab...

3 Nov 2016

To mark the release of the new HH bookThe Accidental Dictionary, we’re posting an extract here every week until Christmas. This week—what was the original blockbuster

These days, when a film fails to earn its money back at the box office, we’re told that it’s “bombed”. But when a film turns out to...

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