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Cabbaged is the longest word that can be spelled using musical notes:

...although we don’t recommend playing that because it sounds like something even Arnold Schoenberg would turn his nose up at.

The seven musical notes from A–G can be used to spell around 100 English words, including the likes of fa...

25 Jul 2017

The fact that orchesography is a bizarre diagrammatic system for notating dance moves ended up one of last week’s most popular tweets: 

So here’s a bit more about it. 

Both the word orchesography and this curious system of notation were invented by Thoinot Arbeau, a French Renaissance historian and sc...

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...

8 Sep 2016

You might remember this fact from the HH Twitter feed a while back:

...which led to a bit more explanation here on the blog: the name Rebecca was used (in allusion to a story from the Old Testament) for a series of toll gate protests in Wales in the mid nineteenth century. And it’s that story again t...

3 Jun 2016

Chances are that if you like words, you’ll like Scrabble. It’s just so much fun, isn’t it? Waiting the entire game for the letter Q to come up so you can play jonquils and score 500 points, only for your opponent to get it first and play qi on a triple word square and score 501. So. Much. FUN.

S...

15 Jul 2015

(Image credit: Shorpy) 

Last week, we tweeted this:

It’s a great word, and given its meaning it seems plausible that it should have a much more familiar etymological cousin:

A nice idea—but unfortunately the two are unrelated. Hoolybuss is an old Cornish word, dating back to the eighteenth century...

13 Mar 2015

 You probably already know what an oxymoron is—a terribly good figure of speech in which two contradictory words or ideas are juxtaposed for rhetorical effect. Like Shakespeare’s “witty fool”, Chaucer’s “hateful good”, Tennyson’s “falsely true”, Hemingway’s “scalding coolness”, Milton...

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