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30 Aug 2018

If the HH Twitter feed proves anything, it’s that there is, it really seems, a word for everything. It might take some digging to find it, but someone somewhere will have come up with a word for it, from the first cut made by a saw, to the dust that comes out of cushions, and to the sound of a spade...

28 Aug 2018

Here’s one for all you failed DIYers out there. When you go to hit a nail with a hammer, and the hammer strikes the wood around the nail leaving a circular dint, that impression is called a Dutch rose

Why? Well, there’s some history here...

Both England and the Netherlands are great seafaring nation...

13 Aug 2018

As etymological stories go, this is a good one. (Just so long as it’s true.) The word bamboozle allegedly comes from a French word, literally meaning “to make a baboon out of someone.”

The word bamboozle first appeared in the language sometime around 1700. To say that it has been bamboozling etymolog...

21 Apr 2018

You might have spotted a bit of nineteenth century slang on HH recently: an XYZ was once a hack journalist, who would take on any work they could find so long as they were paid.

If you have the latest HH book, The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities, you might have come across the story behind this on...

19 Apr 2018

Slang is always popular on HH, but an odd fact about one of the ancient kings of Babylon really struck a chord this week: in Victorian slang the name of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar could be used to mean both “vegetarian” and “penis”.

A great many baffled emails and questions followed this twe...

One of of this week’s most popular tweets was the word buff-ball, a long-lost term from nineteenth century slang for a dance party at which everybody was naked. Those Victorians really knew how to have a good time...

But this raises a question: why is being naked known as being “in the buff”?

As a te...

16 Feb 2018

Gideon and Foulfellow: DExEU’s latest recruits (Wikipedia/Public domain) 

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gave a speech about Brexit this week. And entirely unrelated to that, we posted the word ackamarackus over on Twitter:

Ackamarackus—or ackamaracka, alongside countless other spelling variants—i...

You might have spotted the word lanspresado over on the HH Instagram feed earlier this week, defined as “that member of a group of friends who never seems to have enough money with them”.

As we pointed out at the time, that word (if not that definition) comes from a 1698 dictionary of slang and...

23 Jan 2018

One of the most popular posts on HH this week was the verb kittle-pitcher, meaning “to prevent someone from telling a boring or longwinded story by constantly interrupting them with pointless contradictions.”

 Over on Twitter, we illustrated that fact with an extract from a nineteenth century diction...

28 Aug 2017

That’s a lot of bottle... (Wix) 

The word bottle-conjuror, meaning “a fraudster or disreputable charlatan”, popped up on HH a few weeks ago. And the story behind it—involving a fake advertisement, a theatre, and a disappointed audience—really needs telling.

On the evening of Monday 16 January 1749, Lo...

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