Paging Dr. Euphemism

I am currently entertaining myself while keeping my mother company in the hospital by reading up on the different emergency codes that come over the loudspeaker, which are intentionally cryptic so as to protect patient privacy and stave off mass panic.  The color codes are not standard, aside from Code Red generally meaning “fire”; there […]


My dictionary says that shagreen is a kind of untanned leather (by which it presumably means rawhide), or “the rough skin of various sharks and rays.” Wikipedia says that shagreen is a kind of rawhide, from a horse or a shark or a ray. (I’m paraphrasing.) Both indicate that the word derives from the French […]

Stressing THE wrong word

I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek lately, and I’ve noticed something that happens a lot: A character is supposed to refer to some science or tech thing, but they put primary stress on the wrong word of the phrase. For example, they might refer to the Omicron Theta star system, but they emphasis […]


I learned some years ago that the kiwifruit was formerly known as the Chinese gooseberry; I had read that sales in the US went way up when importers started using the new name. More recently, I was in the supermarket and I happened across a fruit labeled as goldenberries. I had seen them for the […]


Turns out that the word farthing, for the coin once worth a quarter-penny, derives ultimately from the Old English fēortha, meaning one-fourth. (According to MW11.)


According to Wikipedia: “Corvée […] is a form of unpaid, unfree labour, which is intermittent in nature and which lasts limited periods of time: typically only a certain number of days’ work each year.”


Occurred to me recently to wonder about the word cooties. According to Wikipedia: “The word [cooties] is thought to originate from the Austronesian language family, in which the Philippine languages, Maori and Malaysian-Indonesian word kutu refers to a parasitic biting insect. The earliest recorded uses of the term in English are by British soldiers during […]