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Here’s another good one from the HH archives. While a cockatrice is a hideous mythical hybrid, figuratively the expression cockatrice’s egg is used to refer to the point at which a terrible threat or danger first becomes apparent. 

As you’ll doubtless already know if you know your myths and legends (...

Here’s an odd one from the HH archives: if you’re oedipodic, then you have swollen feet. 

If you’re curious to know whether there’s any connection there to the Greek tragic hero Oedipus, then you’re waaaay ahead of us. 

According to legend, Oedipus (he of the patricidal/matriphilic Oedipus complex) wa...

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...

28 Jul 2018

Stand aside, cats on ships—there’s a new favourite HH fact in town. Well, almost. Actually, no; the favourite is still the cats on ships. But this one is still pretty bloody good:

Yes, back when men were men, women were suffragettes, and the worst word you could hear on the London stage was “bloody”,...

11 Jul 2018

We should have a special category on this blog for words you’ll likely never, ever have any cause to use. Case in point, the word circumjovialist: a specific term for a satellite of the planet Jupiter. 

The “circum–” part here is fairly straightforward; it’s the same root as found in words like ...

The etymology of cobra turned up on HH today, and it’s an interesting one.

So here’s a little bit more about it. 

Despite having a Portuguese name, cobra snakes aren’t native Portugal, of course. Instead, that name probably entered the language via Portugal’s colonies in central Asia—most no...

Here’s a weird one, with a surprisingly straightforward explanation behind it. A Robin Hood’s mile is a mile that seems longer than it actually is. 

That’s an expression that dates from the sixteenth century in English (though given the agedness of tales of Robin Hood, it may well have been in use ev...

Popular on HH this week was the story behind the word halcyon, and the expression halcyon days. As we explained over on Twitter, halcyon literally means “kingfisher”, although etymologically it’s thought to combine two Greek elements: hals, meaning “sea” or “saltwater”, and kyon, meaning “...

22 Apr 2018

Today is St George’s Day, which we’ve marked over on HH with the fact that the dragon supposedly slain by St George is said by some to have been called “Old Snap”.

Actually, that’s only half the story here. We don’t know what the dragon killed by St George was called because, y’know, dragons don’t e...

17 Mar 2018

Thursday was International Women’s Day, which last year HH marked with the story of Zenobia—a queen of Palmyra who took on the might of the Roman Empire. And this year was no different: to mark the day, we tweeted about the legendary Amazonian queen Penthesilea, whose name has likewise bec...

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10 Jun 2019

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