Category Archives: Words, phrases & expressions

Lay, Lady, Lay (or Lie?)

Joan Llimona: Woman Lying Down / Wikimedia Commons

“Lay, lady, lay,” sang Bob Dylan back in 1969. “Lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile”

Would Dylan have been more correct to write “Lie, lady, lie“? It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? And we might have thought from the first few words that it was a song about deceit or infidelity. But it might have been more technically correct, vocabulary-wise …

Lay and lie are similar, but they don’t officially mean the same thing. (And we’re talking here about the “making horizontal” and “setting down” senses of these words – not the telling fibs or porkie pies kind of lie or lying. That’s another story altogether.) What makes things really confusing about lay and lie is that they mean different things and have different uses in the present tense, but one serves as the past tense of the other. OK, now you’re really confused. Take it away, Oxford Dictionaries: you explain it quite well. (And Glosso has thrown in some edits and examples to make it even clearer.) Continue reading

“The eagle has landed”

“The eagle has landed” is a common expression used to indicate any successful arrival or completion of a “mission” objective. The American astronaut Neil Armstrong said these words when he announced the successful landing of the Apollo 11 lunar module named “Eagle” in the Sea of Tranquility on the moon 50 years ago today – on July 20, 1969.

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Love, deuce and all that jazz

djokovic-murray

Glossophilia is posting this one again — as Wimbledon fortnight gets underway. Djokovic and Murray aren’t meeting tomorrow, but they’re both still in the game (just!). Familiar faces, but new balls …

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They’re meeting tomorrow in what promises to be a nail-biting Wimbledon final (nail-biting at least for the great British public). But how much love will there be on Centre Court between these two formidable sportsmen, Novac Djokovic and Andy Murray? On the scoreboard, there might be a fair amount during the course of the match; perhaps not so much on the court itself. Why is love the name given to the score for zero in tennis? And what the deuce is the story behind the score for 40-all? Continue reading

“Wax and gold” in goldsmithery and Amharigna

“The Baqdadi Goldsmith” by Kamal-ol-molk / Wikimedia Commons

I’m reading a guidebook about Ethiopia (preparing for a trip there later in the year), and I’ve just stumbled on this really interesting piece by John Grinling called “Wax and gold in goldsmithery and Amharigna.” It’s a good read for anyone interested in words and language, and perhaps helps explain why I love Ethiopian culture. Continue reading

Acceptation: so modern and meta

Admit it: if you read the word acceptation in a newspaper or blog, you would probably pause. You might think: What publication am I reading? Is it legit, or have I gone too far down the rabbit-hole again? Is there any sign of an editor around here? Perhaps English isn’t the author’s first language? And you might even reach for a dictionary. It’s surely a mistake, you’re thinking. They must mean acceptanceContinue reading

Labor Day: the meaning of labor (or labour)

 

labor

Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York, 1882

Update: It’s May 6, 2019, and there’s breaking news: the Duchess of Sussex is in labour. Want to find out more about the history of the word labour (or, as we Americans spell it, labor)? Read this post from a few years ago … Continue reading

It’s Talk Like Shakespeare Day!

It’s National Talk Like Shakespeare Day!* Please teachest me to speaketh like Shakespeare, I heareth thee cry. You probably do already: if you say things like “send him packing”, “as good luck would have it”, “more fool you”, “neither here nor there”,  “mum’s the word”, or “the be-all and end-all”, then you’re doing pretty well in the Shakespearean language department: he was responsible for either coining or popularizing all those phrases.  Anyway, has’t no fear: Glossophilia cometh to the rescue, and we’re about to guide you through your online toolkit of Shakespearean-speak gadgets. Among Glossophilia’s favorites is Shmoop’s own Shakespearean Translator, which is just like Google Translate: Type anything into the box and “see it translated into super-authentic Shakespearean English”. Then there’s the Shakespeare Insult Kit, whose author Jerry Maguire (sic) was or is an English teacher at Center Grove High School in Greenwood Indiana. You’ll sound like a true Shakespearean villain when you hurl those concoctions out there. Another Glosso favorite is Shakespeare’s Words Thesaurus: “This is the opposite of the Glossary. When consulting the Glossary, you know the word and you want to find out what it means. When consulting the Thesaurus, you know the meaning and you want to find out which Shakespearean words express it. How would he say ‘arrogant’ or ‘companion’?'” Did you know that there’s a William Shakespeare Glossary on CliffNotes? And one on SparkNotes too? There’s a plethora of Shakespeare glossaries and dictionaries out there — and I mean plethora in its truest sense – to help you on your talk-like-Shakespeare quest. Here are just some of them … Continue reading

Not my pigeon …

My English friend Fleur recently told me in an email that she wasn’t going to an event because “it really isn’t my pigeon.” I’ve never heard this little avian saying before, and since Glosso has recently posted a piece about expressions using animal (ahem) parts, I was immediately intrigued … Continue reading