Category Archives: Etymology

How Indigenous American words came into English

I’ve been deep in the OED documentation of borrowings and loanwords for my look at “tramlines” [see my previous post, and look out for a few more to come] and OED’s treatment of foreign, about to be naturalized, and naturalized words. I got curious about some of the Indigenous American words in my dataset, and […]

Etymologies

Anstruther Press has recently published Etymologies, a chapbook of poems by Asa Boxer, with an introductory essay by me: See the page at Anstruther Press for more details.

Life of Words Poetry Competition

Good news for Ontario secondary school students who like words: The Life of Words is announcing the first in what will be an annual poetry competition, in which we invite submissions of poems about words and reward excellence with some pretty great prizes. Here is the competition web page, where we’ll post links, news, and […]

The Colour of Greyhounds

Do you know the old joke, “What colour was Napoleon’s white horse?” Well I have another one for you: “What colour was Napoleon’s greyhound?”. Not sure? You may consult the Official Greyhound Colour Chart: Here’s how OED sums up the situation: Apparently < a first element cognate with Old Icelandic grey bitch (further etymology uncertain: […]

Maniacal Mental Etymology

In a recent number of the London Review of Books [37.20; 22 October 2015], a poem by Anne Carson gets thinking about etymology: Prepare for thinking (in the car as we go) by reading a book found in the garage, Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, where I learn ‘to think’ comes from root men-, (zero […]

Interview with Paul Muldoon

Here are some excerpts from an interview I did with Paul Muldoon a couple of years ago, which focused on dictionaries and etymology. A full .pdf version of the interview can be downloaded here: [Interview with Paul Muldoon]. PM: I’ve never really been into the OED Online. Maybe I should. I think I might even […]

Method as Tautology

Although it has been available for a while in the advanced access section of Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, and before that Literary and Linguistic Computing, my article on digital methods in literary research has recently been published in its final version. The full bibliographic details are: Williams, David-Antoine. “Method as Tautology in the Digital […]

Catchall for cutthroats

What is the difference between a catch-all and a catch-phrase? Both are compounds formed as Verb+Noun, but in catch-all, the noun is the direct object of the verb, whereas in catch-phrase it is the subject. That is, a catch-all is something that catches all things, whereas a catch-phrase is not something that catches phrases – […]

Published: “Geoffrey Hill’s Etymological Crux”

I’m happy to say that Modern Philology has just published a longish article of mine on etymology in Geoffrey Hill’s work, called “All corruptible things: Geoffrey Hill’s Etymological Crux.” A self-archived copy of the article may be downloaded by clicking here. In the article I trace out some ways in which the intellectual and theological […]

Plural Fixation

Or, “How not to be a pedant with the OED.” I like a good hatchet job. Done well, the literary smack-down is thrilling and educative. Terry Eagleton on Richard Dawkins [“Lunging, flailing, mispunching”, LRB, 19.10.06] is among my favourite examples of the dark art: characterizing Dawkins’s idea of the Christian god as “some kind of […]