Capital, Cattle and Chattel……

The medieval Latin term capitate denoted ‘property, principal stock of wealth’. It was the neuter form of the Latin adjective capitalis (the source of English capital) which meant ‘chief, principal’, being derived from the noun caput,‘head’. Capitate was borrowed into Old French as chatel and from there passed into Old …

March 11th…..

Why does the G in Margaret sound different from the G in margarine? Why does C begin both case and cease? And why is it funny when a philologist faints, but not phunny to laf about it? English spelling is notoriously clumsy, with its surfeit of silent letters, fickle i’s …

Tomayto and tomato……

I read recently that we British are getting rather hot under the collar about the English language. If you Google the word “Americanisms” you will find red faced pedants claiming that the Americans are swamping, killing and absorbing British English. If the British are not careful, so their argument goes, …

Swan song……….

According to tradition, many ancient peoples believed that swans, creatures whose “voices” are not as melodious as those of other birds, burst into clear song when they felt death nearing. The fifth-century B.C. Greek philosopher Socrates is said to have explained that this voice transformation occurred because the swans were …