I’ve often marvelled at the journey a word takes from its birth to its present usage, and one fine example is termagant, an answer I’ve clued before in a recent MegaMix crossword.
The word termagant means a violent, overbearing person, usually a woman. Synonyms we might use as clues are shrew, virago, harridan, formidable [more…]
A puzzler recently sent me an interesting extract from Mrs Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words, listing the longest word in the English language. I can’t print it here because it has 1913 letters in it. It is a chemical term, although it’s a word unlikely to have ever actually [more…]
Spelling, put simply, is the art of correctly assembling words from their letters. And just like the passion for correct pronounciation, sorry, pronunciation, there are ardent supporters of a Zero Tolerance approach when it comes to inaccuracies.
To some, correct spelling is as sacred as religion. Sticklers we might call them. To others—a powerful world [more…]
“Facts can be turned into art if one is artful enough” – Paul Simon
I wouldn’t have thought that carpenters, stonemasons or other craftsman had a predilection for cunning strategies or slyness. Yet both artful and crafty, with their sly implications, used to mean talented and skilful. Now they are more often used to describe [more…]
There’s no doubt that many expressions we use in everyday life come straight from the silver screen or from television.
To be stepforded is to be secretly replaced with a submissive robot. It comes from the film The Stepford Wives, in which all the wives in town are turned into compliant and submissive women [more…]
You may have come cross the name Australasia in our crosswords. It is the regional name for Australia and New Zealand, and despite the last four letters, it does not include Asia. It means ‘south of Asia’.
Every place on Earth has an antipode, ie the spot on Earth’s surface that is diametrically opposite [more…]
Tongue twisters have been around for years, challenging us to contort our lips and tongues by trying to pronounce the almost impossible.
To make a good tongue twister, you must string together words that are similar but not quite the same, and then make sure they make sense. Such as Sharing crazy crossword clues should [more…]
Having three little granddaughters, I’m familiar with the favourite topics that little girls are into these days – rainbows, unicorns and mermaids. In fact it’s hard to buy a T-shirt for a toddler that doesn’t have one of these three depicted on the front – or dinosaurs, superheroes and trucks for boys (I have [more…]
All left-handed people are evil, worthless, mysterious and bring bad luck. At least, that’s what they used to think in former days. The Latin word for left is ‘sinister’, which has only come to mean evil or treacherous because of its leftist leanings.The old Saxon word for left was ‘lyft’ which also meant worthless. [more…]