Category Archives: Words, phrases & expressions

10 millennial words/phrases you should know

Top 10 Schools for Basic Bs / Wikimedia Commons

Does your 20-something daughter sometimes use words or phrases that you sort of get — because she’s gesticulating with her thumbs and pulling a face that kind of gives you charade-like clues as to what she means — but you’re not completely down with the lingo? Well you don’t need to wonder any more, because Glosso brings you a mini-glossary of essential millennial slang: the 10 words you should probably know — especially if she’s calling you fleek or swoll, or the new bae is coming to dinner … Continue reading

Names of online scams

Here’s the ultimate 21st-century glossary — of online scams. Go phish … (And note: All definitions are courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary, except where noted. These names are legit, even though the practices aren’t.) Continue reading

“A-CHOO!” — “Bless you.” Sneezing and responding in different languages …

A-TISH-oo! Yes, when we sneeze, we sneeze in our own language, as you can see in James Chapman’s illustration above. It’s funny how some cultures end their sneezes with an “oo” sound and some with an “ee” (and a few even have consonants; like the Portuguese “atCHIM,” the French offer “atCHOUM”; the Filipinos add a little music, with their “hatSING”).

And then, in most countries (but not all), we respond to those who have just sneezed with words and phrases that offer simple blessings and wishes for good health or a long life. But not always … Continue reading

Some fun forgotten words …

When you do an image search on “Victorian slang” …

Do you know where to find your daddles, your sauce-box, your tallywags or your gas-pipes? Do you know what it means to feel shivviness or cosmognosis? [I have certainly felt the latter– Ed.] Are you oaf-rocked, or do you suffer from proditomania? Are you a gal-sneaker or a church-bell? Check out these (and many other) wonderful old long-forgotten words and expressions that have fallen into obscurity, brought to us by History Hustle (“25 Best Victorian Slang Terms”) and the BBC (“26 Words We Don’t Want to Lose”). Some of them have been mined from texts like Vocabulary of East Anglia (1830), A Dialogue of Proverbs in the English Tongue (1546), the New Sydenham Society’s Lexicon of Medicine and the Allied Sciences (1882), and Maine Lingo (1950), among others; you can find many more in Paul Anthony Jones’s new book, The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities. Or you can just do a Google image search on the terms “Victorian” and “slang”: do it when you’ve got the morbs, and you might get a gigglemug in the process. Now will you please go and bitch the pot?


Below is not an adjective, folks

(See below update/footnote. It made me gag to write that.)

I know I might be sent below — to one of those circles of linguistic hell (see McSweeney’s post a few days ago) — for pointing this out, but I feel it’s time that this lovely word, below, needs to be explained and understood. In a nutshell, it’s not an adjective, even though it seems to be increasingly misused as such, especially in formal/corporate/written communications (but strangely not in speech). “See below information” is simply incorrect. I apologize to readers of Glossophilia who know me to be generally non-prescriptive; I don’t usually brand any particular usage as wrong, especially if it’s pervasive and evolving. But in this case I’m willing to state my case and stand my ground, because I think it sounds so ugly. Continue reading

The British used to fag, and now they can’t be fagged

Lazy clouded leopard by Charles Barilleaux / Wikimedia Commons

Offensive as the title of this post probably sounds to most American ears, the word fag, in at least some of its meanings and variations, is alive and well — and for the most part benign — in the mouths of Brits. This is one of those Yanks vs. Brits subjects that I’ve been reluctant to discuss on Glossophilia because of the word’s shameful meaning on one side of the Atlantic; however, it seems a pity not to take a look at this quirky piece of vocabulary that is so versatile, evocative and mostly innocent on British shores, where its only real shame is in its reference to a long and very un-PC tradition — now thankfully obsolete — in British public schools. Continue reading

A selfie precursor blossoming at the fair …

1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago, Illinois) / Wikimedia Commons

I’m reading Erik Larson’s fascinating book Devil in the White City, which is about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. A lot of things came out of that fair or were inspired by it, including the ubiquitous ‘Snake Charmer Song’, the Ferris wheel, a notorious serial killer (sic), and several other brand names that have effectively become generic through their popularity — such as Juicy Fruit, Shredded Wheat, and Crackerjack — among other inventions and ideas. And then there was a word that had already been born a century earlier, but which had recently changed its meaning and then began to blossom in the very photogenic landscapes, buildings and attractions of the Columbian Exposition … Continue reading