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There is, as we’re steadily discovering here at HH, a name for everything. And that includes those optical illusions in which two identical lines appear to be different sizes, because they’re overlying a separate diminishing set of parallel lines: 

As we explained over on Twitter, this kind of i...

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 Aug 2018

We’re all about a bit of obscure etymology here at HH, naturally. But today we spread our wings to a little fact about entomology

I know, I know, TL/DR, right? So instead of zooming in on all of tat, here’s a quick précis of how the brilliant word sphexishness arrived in the language, and, er, what...

28 Jul 2018

There’s been a run of heatwaves and thunderstorms around here at HH HQ recently, which brought to mind the word petrichor. And that led us to ask this over on Twitter today: 

Reassuringly, almost three-quarters of you lovely word nerds already knew that one. but as for its origins...? A slough of cur...

20 Jul 2018

Who doesn’t love a bit of obscure ecological vocabulary to start the day? With that in mind, the word zeitgeber popped up on HH yesterday evening:

...and so here’s a little bit more about it. 

No prizes for guessing that zeitgeber is a word we owe to German. (Strictly speaking, in fact, as a Germ...

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 ...

As we defined it over on Twitterimposter syndrome is a rare condition in which a person so doubts their own abilities that—even when presented with evidence of their own achievements—they convince themselves that they’re not worthy of success, and will eventually be found to be a talentless fraud....

A quick vocabulary lesson. One of this week’s most curious facts over on HH was that 1/15th of an hour—a period of precisely 4 minutes—is called a part:

And a while back, we found out that a moment was once precisely defined as 1/40th of an hour, or precisely 90 seconds:

But when it comes to divisio...

18 Apr 2018

File this one away for later use: oneirodynia is a disturbed night’s sleep caused by nightmares. 

That’s a term from psychology that first appeared in English in an 1800 dictionary of nosology (the science of diseases), defined as “inflamed or disturbed imagination during sleep.”

Before then, there’s...

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