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Most popular on HH this week was the curious fact that the word paraphernalia originally referred to all of a woman’s possessions that didn’t automatically become her husband’s property after their marriage. 

In that sense, paraphernalia literally means “outside the dowry”. It derives from the G...

26 Aug 2017

We tweeted the curious expression don’t be like the saddler of Bawtry over on HH the other day—an eighteenth century phrase warning never to refuse the offer of a drink:

And, well, it’s all too strange to leave unexplained.

Bawtry is a small market town near Doncaster in South Yorkshire, England. Acc...

23 Aug 2017

A tweet from a few weeks ago on HH resurfaced this week:

...and it seems we never quite acknowledged the full story behind it. 

Fans of the English playwright Ben Jonson will likely know this phrase already: The Case Is Altered was the title of perhaps the earliest of Jonson’s plays, believed to have...

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...

31 Jul 2015

Yesterday, HH tweeted this fairly peculiar definition: 

In fact, Rebecca is just one of a handful of first names that you can use as a word in its own right. A George, for instance, is a loaf of brown bread. Abigail is an old nickname for a lady’s maid. A Robert is a restaura...

11 Jun 2015

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The other day, we tweeted this:

Frankly, it sounds made up:

But, in fact, this bizarre quirk of legal terminology is entirely true.

The word immemorial literally means “unrememberable”, or “beyond memory”. Although it’s occasionally found on its own (Alfred Lord Tennyson’s...

29 May 2015

 If you’ve managed to escape the rack-renters and have found a place to call your own, there’s a good chance you’ll have (or, at least, will once have had but have now paid off, you lucky thing) a mortgage. In which case, it’ll likely come of no surprise to find out that a mortgage is literally...

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