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26 Apr 2019

The French phrase après moi, le déluge is used in English to express a lack of concern for what happens after you’ve gone. And given all the #ExtinctionRebellion climate change protests that have been going on in London these past few weeks, it’s perhaps no surprise that this expression did the roun...

15 Apr 2019

The word pactolian cropped up on HH this week, defined as an adjective describing anywhere covered in golden sands. 

The word pactolian name-checks the Pactolus, an ancient river of Asia Minor that flows into the Aegean Sea in what is now modern-day Turkey. According to legend, the sands that line th...

23 Aug 2018

Today’s Word of the Day over on Haggard Hawks needs—well, a little bit more explaining. 

So a Spartan boy is, proverbially, someone who keeps a secret and suffers as a result. But how? Or rather, why?

Sparta was one of the smallest but most powerful of Ancient Greek city-states, and much of that...

22 Aug 2018

Today’s Word of the Day on HH is a good one: if you’re flagitious, then you’re guilty of atrocious crimes.  

Dating back to the Middle English period in English (but rarely used since the nineteenth century), flagitious derives via French from its Latin equivalent, flagitiosus. That word in turn...

16 Aug 2018

Every so often, something crops up on HH that if we didn’t provide the receipts for, no one would believe it to be true. And today, that something is buttock-mail.

Ah, the Scots. Don’t you just love them? Seriously, they have all the best words. 

So. Buttock-mail. Buttock. Mail. How on earth did...

15 Aug 2018

“Do you have it in black?” Houdini has a jacket fitted, 1923 (Public domain) 

Here’s a strange fact. Straitjackets were originally called strait-waistcoats

The straitjacket as we know it today was invented in the mid eighteenth century, with a French upholsterer enigmatically known only as “Guillere...

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...

A lovely little etymological tale popped up on HH today: a parting shot was originally a Parthian shot—a reference to the skilled horsemen and archers of the ancient Parthian Empire. 

Parthia was an ancient region of western Asia, roughly equivalent to what is now Iran. The Parthian people...

27 Jul 2018

We inevitably stray into history every so often here on Haggard Hawks, and this week was no exception. The Roman statesman Cicero earned his second HH shout out today (spoiler alert: here’s the first) over on our new Instagram channel, thanks to a bizarre fact about the origin of his name:

Marcus Tul...

24 Jul 2018

File this one away for future reference: an Ananias is a habitual liar. 

This, as some of you will undoubtedly know, is a biblical allusion. But if you think this has anything to do with Ananias of Damascus—the disciple who restored Saul’s sight, according to the New Testament—then you’re mistak...

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