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11 Aug 2018

If you have the HH guide to sea-changing etymologies, The Accidental Dictionary, on your bookcase, then you’ll partly know this one already. If you don’t—why not? And also, more importantly—as a verb, heartburn used to mean “to make jealous.”

So how does that work? Well, as we say this story is at le...

15 May 2018

What do the words musk, avocado and orchid all have in common? This week, we found out that they all come from words meaning “testicle”.

How did all that happen? Well, let’s play ball.

Musk comes to us via French, Latin, Greek and, earlier still, Persian—but before of all that, it derives ultimately...

Two heart-related etymologies turned up on the H​​​​​​​H feed last week: the fact that heartache originally meant “heartburn”, and the fact that heartburn originally meant “lust”.

Proof that heartache was originally a medical rather than an emotional problem comes from a fairly unlikely source: Bald’...

22 Mar 2017

 “Grandma, your big feet are the only thing that looks to be different” (Image: Public domain) 

Last week on Twitter, we posted this: 

And last week on the blog, we wrote about this:

And as odd as it might sound, they have something in common. 

Firstly, both words have at their centres th...

16 Dec 2016

The penultimate entry in our series of extracts from the new HH book, The Accidental Dictionary, tells the surprisingly medical history of a branch of mathematics.

“Long story short, no, you probably haven’t been mis-sold PPI.” (Image credit: Public domain)

If you didn’t much care for mathematics at s...

1 Dec 2016

This week over on the HH YouTube channel we looked at the literal meanings of words, with an eye to picking out a set of 10 whose literal meanings seemed at odds with, or far removed from, their actual meanings:

So a corridor is literally “a place for running”. Something that’s mediocre is lite...

25 Oct 2016

Ah, Halloween. When children dress as monsters, adults dress like children, and everyone over the age of 30 dreads the sound of their own doorbell. But as it’s the scariest day of the year (and not just because of that doorbell thing), this week on YouTube we looked at the names of 10 little-known g...

22 Sep 2016

From keekers to trullibubs, this week’s HH YouTube video looked at ten alternative (or alternate, as you might prefer) names for body parts:

But of all the words and word facts that made that list, perhaps the most surprising is finding out that the indentation between your collar bones at the base o...

27 May 2016

Earlier today, this peculiar etymological twist cropped up on the HH Twitter feed:

And so here’s a bit more about it.

Although nowadays auburn refers to red hair, the word itself is rooted in the Latin word albus, meaning “white”. That’s also where the word albinism comes from, as well as...

18 May 2016

You might have spotted this word over on the HH Twitter feed the other day:

Originally used in reference to crystallography and chemistry, an enantiomorph (literally an “opposite shape”) is a mirror image or reflection, while something described as enantiomorphic or enantiomorphous resemble...

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