I’m a writer these days but I have two degrees in computing and one of the things I love about running my own blog and publishing my own nonfiction books is the ability to examine the data and analyze my reader base, discover which stories connected, and to evolve my…


This week’s word is unscrupulous, simply because I like this word. A scruple sounds like a character in Dickens, doesn’t it?

The dictionary tells me somebody is unscrupulous if they show no moral principles and treat others in a dishonest or unfair manner. Although such people have existed since the…


I was gathering words starting with the letter M the other day, as you do, when I stumbled upon mundungus. As a fantasy fan the first thing I thought of was Mundungus Fletcher, a rather unsavoury criminal character in the Harry Potter series.

The author’s fondness for meaningful names is…


This week’s word is tip, with thanks to an etymology tip I found in “Oranges and Lemons” by Christopher Fowler (wonderful detective series set in London, awash with historic tidbits). His character mentioned that if you visit Twinings Tea Shop on the Strand, the oldest in the world, you’ll find…


Regular readers will know I wrote “How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary” to capture the stories of people whose names entered the English language as words — heroes and heroines (and a fair few villains) whose lives were extraordinary. Since publication I’ve stumbled across a few more.


Did you know that vagabond has two meanings? According to the Cambridge Dictionary it’s “a person who has no home and usually no job, and who travels from place to place” but Merriam Webster gives an additional definition “one leading an unsettled, irresponsible, or disreputable life”. I was thinking vagabonds


I’ve always wondered what a camera has to do with in camera court proceedings. Surely taking a photo, or video, of the court case would make it more public rather than less so?

As with many legal terms this is one the Romans gave us. In camera simply means in…


I’ve been thinking about weather words this week (I have plans afoot for a book on the subject) so I chose one of my favourites to discuss today — zephyr. A zephyr is a gentle breeze (historically it was also a light cotton gingham, ideal for spring dresses). Not a…


Hello,

A reading friend posed a Tolkien-related word question recently. “We use homely typically to refer to someone who’s a little worse than plain-looking, without being actually ugly. But then there’s Tolkien’s rather mysterious phrase about how Elrond’s place in Rivendell is “the Last Homely House East of the Sea.”…


Hello,

This week I finally finished watching “The History of Swearing” on Netflix. My family are neither Nicholas Cage nor etymology fans so I squeezed in episodes when they were in bed. It’s a short series with brief, well-edited episodes exploring a handful of popular curse-words with help from lexicographers…

Grace Tierney

“Words the Vikings Gave Us”, “Words The Sea Gave Us”, “How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary”. Wordfoolery blog about unusual English words. NaNoWriMo ML.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store