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Does "splooting" have an etymology?

In the summer of 1990, I spent a memorable five weeks at the outstanding summer institute on Indo-European linguistics and archeology held by DOALL (at least that's what we jokingly called it — the Department of Oriental and African Languages and Literatures) of the University of Texas (Austin).  The temperature was 106º or above for […]

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Best invented folk etymology of 2021?

Wondermark for 11/25/2021 — deriving "rappers", from "wrappers" and their "candy shanties" on the Hersey Chocolate assembly line: Mouseover title: "People will claim lots of things to impress some random moron."

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On the etymology of the title Tham of Burusho kings

[The following is a guest post by John Mock.  I am impressed by how much detailed scholarship (although perhaps not always of great precision and rigor) on such an esoteric matter as that discussed herein already existed in the 18th and 19th centuries.] John Biddulph in his book Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh (Calcutta: Office […]

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The dawn of etymology

Yesterday's SMBC: Mouseover title: "Chicken etymology is really easy because the word origins AND the words you use to describe them are all 'bock bock bock'."

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A Vietnamese etymology for the Chinese word for "pineapple"?

In "Shampoo salmon" (2/10/14), I called attention to the variety of opinions concerning the origins of the Chinese word bōluó 菠萝 / variant bōluó 波萝 ("pineapple").  Tom Nguyen suggests that another possible source is from Old Vietnamese *bla (> dứa /z̻ɨ̞̠ɜ˧ˀ˦/ with Northern accent – note the process of “turning into sibilant” of initial consonant […]

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Etymology in the rain forest

"Scientist discovers puppy-sized spider in rain forest", ABC 11 Eyewitness News 10/20/2014: For all readers with arachnophobia, take a moment to collect yourself before proceeding further, because this spider will haunt your dreams. Harvard Etymologist Piotr Naskrecki recently posted on his blog about an encounter in Guyana's rainforest with a South American Goliath birdeater, a […]

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Etymology gone wrong: (un)impregn(at)able

A few days ago, Larry Horn sent this note to the  American Dialect Society's discussion list: On an article lauding the Texas Rangers’ defense in today’s NYT sports section, I did a double-take on reading that The defense—anchored by shortstop Elvis Andrus and the impregnable glove of Adrian Beltre at third base—has saved more runs […]

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Chinese "Etymology"

My previous post was about "dialects" that are often not really dialects, but bona fide languages, and the efforts of the Chinese government to phase them out.  In this post, I'll be talking about "etymology" that is not really etymology, but character analysis. The occasion for these ruminations (see especially the last two paragraphs below) […]

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Extreme etymology

Last week, there was an interesting Ask MetaFilter thread about how to find "a list of all the English words that can be traced back to a given root word" ("Word histories and dirt lions") , in which Language Hat helpfully linked to the American Heritage Dictionary's "lists of Indo-European and Semitic roots" as a […]

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Heroic feats of etymology

The "About Us" page for the new search engine Cuil says that Cuil is an old Irish word for knowledge. For knowledge, ask Cuil. There has been considerable discussion at the Wikipedia discussion page for Cuil about whether this is really true.

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Share your language

If you can't make up your mind what to do about something, then in French you would say "je suis partagé":  I'm torn or divided over it.  You can't decide what to do about it.  You can't make up your mind whether to be pleased or angry with something.  But the verb "partager" means "to […]

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Kimchee is Korean

Not Chinese.  Do you understand? This has long been a cabbage of contention, but make no mistake about it:  fermented kimchee / kimchi  (gimchi 김치 (IPA [kim.tɕʰi]) (lit., "soaked [in their own juices of fermentation] vegetables") is not the same thing as pickled paocai / pao tsai 泡菜 (lit., "soaked [in brine] vegetables"). Kimchee and […]

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Corporeal grammar

Recent article in Scientific American: This Ancient Language Has the Only Grammar Based Entirely on the Human Body An endangered language family suggests that early humans used their bodies as a model for reality By Anvita Abbi on June 1, 2023 From just a small handful of Andaman Islanders, the last speakers of their languages, […]

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