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28 Aug 2018

One of this week’s most popular tweets on HH was the word kedophysis, which neatly sums up something we’re all probably feeling given, y’know, *gestures at everything*:

Yes, kedophysis is a formal term for the inclination to worry. A term from psychiatry, etymologically kedophysis brings together two...

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...

10 Jul 2018

Sometimes things just aren’t fair. Like calling the study of speech defects psellismology.

To be fair, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, that is an “obsolete nonce-word,” coined—along with its derivative psellismologist—in a November 1856 article in Charles Dickens’ periodical Household Wor...

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’...

1 Mar 2017

The other day, the word panchreston popped up on the HH feed:

In fact, it popped up the day after President Trump’s first solo press conference, but that, of course, was just a coincidence. (As was this, for that matter.)

But we digress. The earliest use of the word panchreston in English dates from t...

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...

9 Dec 2016

This week on our YouTube channel, we looked at 10 words that you might not have realised are onomatopoeic:

Everybody knows what onomatopoeia is, of course. But when it comes to etymology, it’s easy to forget that there’s a lot more of it in the dictionary besides snapcrackle and pop. Quite a f...

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...

7 Oct 2016

This week on our YouTube channel, we looked at a group of terms that crop up fairly often on lists of bizarre words: phobias. 

The word phobia itself has its roots in phobos, an Ancient Greek word meaning “fear”, “panic”, or “flight”. The Greeks certainly knew a thing or two about irrational fears an...

11 Aug 2015

Crikey, get a room, you two (Wikipedia Commons

A few days ago, HH tweeted that a toad-eater is “someone who backs up a liar or helps propagate a lie”.

And, well, it’s all just a little too bizarre to leave unexplained... 

There’s an old language myth that claims toad-eater comes from the Spanish...

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