Author Archives: Louise

It’s Friday 13th: a day for paraskevidekatriaphobia, friggatriskaidekaphobia or triskaidekaphobia

 

frigga

Reposting this, on this auspicious day …

It’s Friday 13th, and for some people that’s a day when their triskaidekaphobia kicks in big time. Triskaidekaphobia? It means “fear of the number 13”. Also sometimes spelled triskaidecaphobia, it’s a slightly strange word deriving from two different languages: it combines the Greek treiskaideka (“thirteen”) with the Latin word for “fear of”, phobia. The first known written citation is in a book by Isador Coriat, Religion and Medicine: the Moral Control of Nervous Disorders, published in 1908, so this superstition linked to the number 13 is probably quite a recent phenomenon. But is there also a word for the fear of the date itself? Continue reading

In the news: a linguistic Brexit? (“French leave”)

Exactly a year after the historic Brexit referendum, a British MP looks likely to achieve her goal of seeing another major change in citizenship in Europe — in a popular English expression. A bill has been steered through Parliament by the Conservative MP for Anglebury, Avril Berner, who has called for the expression “French leave” — meaning “absence from work or duty without permission” (OED) — to be changed to “English leave” in dictionaries and school textbooks throughout the UK. In a four-page document, which was reported by Parliament Today to have reached Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s signature on Thursday, the anniversary of the landmark 2017 vote, Berner argued that the word French has no business holding its place in standard British English, especially as the island nation continues to negotiate its economic and legal separation from the European mainland. Interestingly, the French equivalent for the phrase is “filer a l’anglaise” — meaning literally “to leave English-style”. The nearly 250-year-old phrase “French leave” is first recorded in 1771.

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Other English terms that contain the names of European nationalities are:

  • Spanish fly: an aphrodisiac, made from the dried blood of Spanish beetles
  • Dutch cap: a contraceptive diaphragm
  • French letter: another contraceptive, a condom

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Celebrating seven on Glosso’s seventh birthday

 

It’s the number of wonders in the world; for many, it’s the number of perfection, security, safety and rest. It’s the number of colors in a rainbow and of days in a week; of notes in a scale, and of dwarfs in Snow White’s entourage.

Here, on Glosso’s seventh birthday, are seven phrases or proverbs that include the word seven — plus one for luck.

  • Seven-day wonder: A person or thing that generates interest for only a short amount of time.
  • At sixes and  sevensFrazzled or disorganized. Probably originated from a dice game in which rolling a six or seven was unfavorable.
  • Seven-year itch: A supposed tendency to infidelity after seven years of marriage.
  • In seventh heaven: In a state of ecstasy.
  • Seven-league boots:  The ability to travel very fast on foot. This phrase comes from the fairy-tale Hop o’ My Thumb (or Little Thumbling), in which magic boots enable the wearer to travel seven leagues in each stride.
  • Keep a thing seven years and you’ll (always) find a use for it
  • You should know a man seven years before you stir his fire

And the last one for luck:

Twenty-four seven: All day every day …

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You say aluminum, I say aluminium

Aluminum. Or aluminium. / Wikimedia Commons

There might be trade war brewing over steel and aluminum. But another trans-Atlantic war has already been raging for a couple of centuries over one of those heavy metals. Which came first: American aluminum or British aluminium? Continue reading

Hall v Swift Dismissal: the uncreativity of [noun] gonna [verb]

Taylor Swift / Wikimedia Commons

Last year, songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued Taylor Swift, arguing that in her single “Shake It Off” she stole a phrase from their composition “Playas Gon’ Play.” Their lawsuit hinged on the phrase “playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate” — the chorus of their song.

In short, they lost. And it seems they were always [gonna] lose. “At the hearing, Plaintiffs’ counsel offered alternative (very clunky) formulations of pairing a noun with its intransitive verb, thereby suggesting that “[noun] gonna [verb]” was creative in itself. While clever, this argument does not persuade. The argument ultimately only makes sense if the use of “gonna” as a contraction of “is going to” is sufficiently creative, or (as discussed above) one can claim creativity in asserting that a type of person acts in accordance with his or her inherent nature. To explicitly state the argument is to see how banal the asserted creativity is. In sum, the lyrics at issue – the only thing that Plaintiffs allege Defendants copied – are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act.” The BBC told the full story.

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