Words that used to mean something very different
We’ll own up right at the start: the ten words below were suggested to us by the latest book we’ve been reading, Paul Anthony Jones’s The Accidental Dictionary: The Remarkable Twists and Turns of English Words. Jones’s previous books – one of which we included in our pick of the best and most interesting books about the English language – have taken a look at the curious and often surprising histories of English words, and his new book is no different. We were fortunate enough to be the recipients of an advance review copy of the book; it’s out in the UK next week. Below are ten surprising words which quite drastically altered their meanings at some point in the past, and now mean something very different from their original definitions.
AMBIDEXTROUS. This word, Jones reveals in his book, originally meant ‘duplicitous’ or ‘deceitful’, when it first appeared in the English language in the sixteenth century. An ‘ambidexter’, meanwhile, was a dishonest lawyer. Why? Because he would accept a payment from both sides of a legal dispute. Read the rest of this entry
How did the famous trilby hat get its name?
Here’s a question for you: what was the biggest-selling novel of the Victorian era? And who wrote it – Dickens perhaps? George Eliot? Robert Louis Stevenson? It was none of these, though they all enjoyed huge sales. Instead, the accolade arguably goes to a man who was principally known, not as a novelist at all, but as a cartoonist. (We say ‘arguably’ because reliable sales figures for nineteenth-century books are not always easy to find.) Read the rest of this entry
Interesting words related to literature and reading
We love to collect interesting words, especially those related to literature, reading, and other such things. Indeed, since the stuff of literature is words, we love to delve into the wonderful world of the lexical. Here are ten of the best literary words we’ve encountered recently, with a definition for each. If you enjoy these words, you’ll probably enjoy our 10 words for book-lovers and our 10 words for writers.
A panchreston is a broad thesis that purports to cover all aspects of its subject but usually ends up as a gross oversimplification.
Papyrocracy is government by paper, especially newspapers and literature.
Rhapsodomancy is divining the future by picking a passage of poetry at random. Read the rest of this entry