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About this site

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

This is the archive of pieces that have appeared in the free newsletter. Weekly issues include much more than appears here, including comment by readers, serendipitous encounters with unfamiliar language, and tongue-in-cheek tut-tuttings at errors perpetrated by sloppy writers.

New this week

Peely-wally This is a Scots word that means to be pale and sickly or insipid and colourless in appearance. Note that the second half rhymes with sally, not holly. It can refer to Scots’ national skin colour ...
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Draw a line in the sand I’ve not been able to find an example of this exact event, but the idea behind it clearly fits the meaning of the idiom. By literally or figuratively drawing such a line, a person is saying ...
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Randomly chosen

Andropause The term male menopause was coined in the late 1940s for a condition whose symptoms included emotional upsets and uncharacteristic behaviour but quickly became something of a ...
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The next website update

The next update is due on 4 October 2014. You should then be able to read about agister, a term of one of Britain’s ancient royal forests; the story behind the curious northern English expression not so green as you’re cabbage-looking and a review of The Word at War by Philip Gooden and Peter Lewis. If you subscribed to my newsletter, you would already have seen them, and more besides.

Recently added pages

Porphyrogeniture; Set one’s cap at; Epicaricacy; Furthest and farthest; Hide one’s light under a bushel; Jentacular; Raparee; Footloose and fancy free; Animadvert; Vigorish; Corybantic; Epilimnion; Nail; Going spare; Lucubration; Bounding main; Blooper; Precrastination; File; Logocidal; Bat an eyelid; Gyre; Skeleton in the closet; Closet versus Cupboard; Nuciform; Colporteur; Red rag to a bull; London to a brick.

Last updated 27 Sep. 2014.

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved. See the copyright page for notes about linking to and reusing this page. For help in viewing the site, see the technical FAQ. Your comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 27 September 2014.