Bookshelp header image for page World Wide Words logo

Recently added

To learn when this page is updated, either follow World Wide Words on Facebook or Twitter or subscribe to my RSS update feed. New pieces are also included in issues of my newsletter.

4 April 2015

Galoot I’m not at all sure one can have a small galoot. The image is usually of a man who is variously worthless, uneducated, simple-minded or stupid. He may be clumsy and large, but not necessarily, though big galoot is ...
[Read the whole piece]

Crizzling The last issue contained a reference to Robert Macfarlane’s book Landmarks, which details the results of his long search for the language of landscape and natural phenomena. Crizzling is one member of his ...
[Read the whole piece]

Vellichor Amogh Simha alerted me to this word, which has been widely mentioned on social media in the past year but which is unknown to the non-digital world. All the references to it quote the same definition ...
[Read the whole piece]

Caparisoned Don’t be confused by the first syllable: this English word doesn’t imply a head covering, though it can be used for clothing. But there is a historical link, as some experts believe that caparisoned ultimately ...
[Read the whole piece]

7 March 2015

Trove The Guardian was a minor treasure-trove in early March 2015 for enquirers into matters of English language. An item in the Corrections and Clarifications column on Monday 2 March reported that grammar ...
[Read the whole piece]

Smithereens It’s an excellent word to describe the action of pummelling something forcibly, with that sm sound at the start that also appears in words such as smack, smite and smash. When an object has become ...
[Read the whole piece]

Volleyballene Scientists have a puckish sense of humour.Last week, I encountered a substance called volleyballene. It’s a hollow sphere of 60 carbon atoms and 20 atoms of scandium. This produces a shape made ...
[Read the whole piece]

14 February 2015

Worry wart It’s been about a month since you asked this question, so I hope you’ve not been kept awake at night worrying about the origins and spelling of this curious expression. In case you have, I hasten ...
[Read the whole piece]

Punch list I’ve no personal experience of this term — it seems to be restricted to the civil engineering and building industries in the US and has never been used in Britain. Searching around, it turns out that ...
[Read the whole piece]

Verbigeration The American actor, musician, and author John Lithgow remarked in a recent newspaper interview that verbigeration was his current favourite word. Though it describes the use of words, the concern ...
[Read the whole piece]

31 January 2015

Heliotrope In early 1880, newspaper articles throughout much of the English-speaking world, usually headed “for the ladies”, reported that the Paris spring fashions featured a new colour ...
[Read the whole piece]

Ditty bag Ditty bag comes from the days of sailing ships: “On each side of the berth-deck, termed “the wings,” are racks for the accommodation of canvass bags; each man has one in which he keeps his clothes, and ...
[Read the whole piece]

10 January 2015

Eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious This appears quite often in modern collections of exotic and unfamiliar words. It’s certainly both. It’s monstrous, 30 letters long (to save electrons and my typing fingers, let’s call it E30 ...
[Read the whole piece]

Old fogey An old fogey is a person of advanced years — or seems to be so to the person doing the describing — who holds on to attitudes that they learned when they were young and rejects new things, so appearing old-fashioned ...
[Read the whole piece]

18 December 2014

Ampersand [UPDATED] This name for the character & is surprisingly recent, not being known before the late eighteenth century, though the character itself was in use long before printing was invented. It started ...
[Read the whole piece]

13 December 2014

Phizzog In his blog The Oxford Etymologist, Professor Anatoly Liberman recently mentioned coming across phizzog in Slabs of the Sunburnt West, a book of 1922 by the American poet Carl Sandburg. He found that ...
[Read the whole piece]

Horse creature This is an intriguing usage, hardly recorded in dictionaries, even the biggest, and which hasn’t been noticed or discussed by any writer on language I’ve been able to identify. I’ve found some ...
[Read the whole piece]

Share this page
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Google+ Email

Search World Wide Words

Support World Wide Words!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.

Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!


Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Last updated 4 Apr. 2015.

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996– All rights reserved.
This page URL:
Last modified: 4 April 2015.