In 1997, in his Encyclopedia of Words and Phrase Origins, Robert Hendrickson’s entry for “whole nine yards” states: “The expression did not arise in the garment industry but among construction workers, the nine yards referring to the maximum capacity a cement-mixer truck can carry—nine cubic yards of cement.” Hendrickson was […]
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Tis claimed that on Saint Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish. While this may or may not be true, it is a fact that the original Brits were the Celts who arrived in Britain and Ireland by 500 BC. After the Romans left Britain in the 5th century AD, the country […]
In February, in the United States and Canada, we celebrate Black History Month to honour the achievements of black men and women throughout history. As such, let’s reflect on the speech patterns of black people. While negative attitudes toward black English persist, we have to look to yesteryear to see […]
Some years ago while on a trip to England, I encountered some words and expressions that made me realize the importance of being bilingual in the English languages. For example, I asked someone in London where I could find an ATM. She looked nonplussed, but her companion translated, “he means […]
If a reader peruses this article, should I be a) disinterested, or b) nonplussed? It depends on the meaning ascribed to the three italicized words. Let me explain. Traditionally, “disinterested” meant impartial, but nowadays the majority of people use it to mean “not interested.” I regret this modern usage because […]
Four score years ago, minus one, Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Well, it appears Roosevelt was wrong. The site phobialist.com lists more than 500 phobias that might plague someone. Some aren’t widespread, such as cherophobia, the fear of gaiety; leukophobia, the fear of […]
BY HOWARD RICHLER Ever since cavemen stopped dragging away unwilling partners by the hair, marriage has been a knotty situation. The climax of a Hindu ceremony arrives when the garments of the bride and groom are tied together and, bound in this manner, the knotted couple walk round a holy […]