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A nice little word popped up on HH yesterday, and so here’s a little bit more about picayunish:

If you know your Americanisms, then there’ll be little surprise to find that at the root of picayunish is picayune, a word that’s been used since the early nineteenth century in American English to describ...

Why doesn’t Arkansas rhyme with Kansas? It’s one of those questions you might never think to ask, but are probably curious to know the answer to—and the answer (or at least part of it) popped up on HH this week. 

The fact is that Kansas actually did rhyme with Arkansas o...

16 Feb 2018

Gideon and Foulfellow: DExEU’s latest recruits (Wikipedia/Public domain) 

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gave a speech about Brexit this week. And entirely unrelated to that, we posted the word ackamarackus over on Twitter:

Ackamarackus—or ackamaracka, alongside countless other spelling variants—i...

30 Nov 2017

It was apparently World Hello Day last week, a date marked over on the HH Twitter feed with the fact that Alexander Graham Bell’s preferred method for answering the telephone was the word ahoy. Alas it was not to be, and Thomas Edison’s suggestion, hello, eventually became the standard. 

Of the...

“Right, I’ll put the dishes away while you scrub the garage roof.” (Wix)

The word scurryfunge popped up on HH this week, defined as a verb meaning “to hastily tidy a house”:

That being said, when it first appeared in the language in the late eighteenth century, scurryfunge originally meant “to beat” o...

4 Jun 2017

The word deacon popped up on the HH feed on Thursday, not in its usual ecclesiastical sense but as a verb meaning “to pack or display fruit so that the best produce is on the top”.

The deacons of the Christian church date back to the Old English period, and have their origins—via Latin—in a...

11 Jan 2017

Towards the end of 2016, we asked you all to vote for our very first Word of the Year. After a year of tragic losses, Brexit shenanigans, political mendacity and trumpery, we narrowed things down to a shortlist of just five words.

Epicedium, whipmegmorum, cacafuego and toad-eater all fell at the fin...

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...

17 Nov 2016

So last week it was teddies, this week it’s bears...

One subject we tend to hold back from mentioning on HH is confusing and confusable words. That’s largely because doing so tends to open up not so much a can of worms, but a more a shipping container of worms.

Can you, for instance, use literally to...

27 May 2016

If you follow the HH Twitter or Facebook feeds, you might have spotted the word insinuendo the other day, meaning “an insinuated remark”. According to the late Oxford English Dictionary editor Robert Burchfieldinsinuendo is a “tasteless word.” Well, there’s no accounting for taste,...

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