Word of the Day: dust

From First Thoughts

“Dust you are, and unto dust you shall return,” said the Lord God to Adam after the first sin. It’s a fine translation of the Hebrew, that  dust ; it suggests transience and insubstantiality. By the nineteenth century, in Britain at least, the word came to denote . . . . Continue Reading »

The Word of the Day: whore

From First Thoughts

It may please some of my readers to learn that the word  whore  and the name  Cher  are etymologically related. But how? The first thing we need to clear out of the way is that  w  at the beginning of  whore.  It doesn’t belong there. It’s . . . . Continue Reading »

Word of the Day: Lent

From First Thoughts

Lent  is a most unusual word. Germans call the forty day period between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday by the perfectly reasonable name  Fastenzeit:  the time for fasting. The French, mishearing the Latin  quadrigesima, fortieth,  call it  Careme; whether they . . . . Continue Reading »

Word of the Day: seethe

From First Thoughts

It’s a good old Anglo Saxon word, but it did not mean to grow angry, scowling, waiting the chance to strike. It meant, simply,  to boil.  Why didn’t the Anglo Saxons say  boil if they meant  boil? Or  bo’ll,  if they were from Southwark? Or  . . . . Continue Reading »

The Word of the Day: went

From First Thoughts

Why do we say, “John goes to the pawn shop today,” but “John  went  to the pawn shop yesterday?”  Where does that come from? German doesn’t have it. In the Krautic tongue, people say  ich gehe, I go,  and  ich ginge, I went.  The . . . . Continue Reading »