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24 Apr 2019

An old favourite of HH (and of those endless viral lists of things-you-didn’t-know-there-was-a-word-for) popped up on the Twitter feed tonight: nikhedonia, as defined by the monumental Campbell’s Psychiatric Dictionary, is the excitement or pleasure that comes from anticipating a success. 

So when yo...

15 Apr 2019

The Monte Carlo fallacy cropped up on HH this week, defined as “the misguided belief that because something has happened less frequently than might be expected, it is now more likely to occur”.

Over on Twitter, we gave the example of a flipped coin: imagine a coin is tossed 10 times in a row, and eve...

15 Aug 2018

This might be one of the strangest facts we’ve had for a while: a bike was originally a beehive. No, really. 

So here’s the facts. As another word for a bees’ or wasps’ nest, bike emerged in the northern dialects of Middle English, and gets its first written shoutout in the text to the Cursor Mundi,...

Here’s a word to add to that ever-lengthening list of Words You Didn’t Know Were Named After People: the burpee.

Yes, if you’ve ever had a PT session, attended an aerobics class or an outdoor bootcamp, or if you’re deranged enough to be a CrossFitter, then you can thank the magnificently named Dr Roy...

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...

16 May 2018

An entry from Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary made it onto Twitter this week: in lieu of a definition of the word trolmydames in his 1755 Dictionary of the English Language, Johnson merely included the caveat that “of this word I know not the meaning”.

Why include the word at all if he didn’t know what...

This year’s is the 23rd Winter Olympics. It’s also meant to be the coldest Olympiad on record (when the snowboarding gets underway on Friday, the competitors will be spiralling through –16º C air). And, what’s more, it gives HH the chance to dust off some of our long-forgotten Olympic vocabular...

25 Nov 2016

It’s by no means unusual for words to change their meaning, often quite dramatically, as they’re passed down from decade and decade, and from century to century, through the language. Sometimes however, those changes can be quite surprising—which is the point of the new HH book, The Accidental Dicti...

28 Feb 2015

There’s an old story that claims the word handicap derives from wounded soldiers returning home from war with injuries preventing them from returning to their day jobs, and leaving them with no option other than to beg on the streets, their caps literally held in their hands to catch the pennies of...

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