Happy Yuletide!

As we have reached the penultimate letter in our alphabet journey to 2016, it is a perfect time to look at the tradition of Yuletide (or Christmas to you and me). The word Yule derives from Scandinavia and means ‘feast’ and ‘tide’ means ‘time’ – so Yuletide was (and is) a time for great feasts. Yule was originally a Pagan holiday, which took place around the time of the winter solstice (December 21st) and lasted twelve days.  In the Northern hemisphere the winter solstice has been celebrated for millennia and the Yule log, wassailing and the decorated tree, all originate…

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X is a short entry

We have just three days left of our alphabet journey to 2016. A few days ago, we looked at U and discovered that there were no fewer than fourteen pages in the OED dedicated just to the Un words. Well, X only has two pages – in total!  And we can trace most of those X words back to Greek derivation, which makes sense when you look at the history of the letter itself.  It seems that X came to us via Classical Greek and Etruscan. Of course, we also know that the Romans used X in their system of…

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Writing is what we are all about

It’s great that we have arrived at W, because we are all about words and writing. Back at D of our alphabet journey, we looked at the discovery of writing. If you remember, we explained that the very earliest writing so far discovered is European in origin – written on the Amulet called the Tărtăria tablet dating to 5300-5500 BC and devised by the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture of the Carpathians and the Moldova-Romania region. How incredible to think about all the words that have been written since those early times.  It seems that mankind needed to create permanence for their words.  We know that many stories were…

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V is annoying for Scrabblers

If you are an avid Scrabble player, then you know the dread of getting a V in your hand.  V is one of the few letters that has no allowable two-letter words in Scrabble, making it particularly awkward to get rid of! But it can be used tactically to block your opponent.  Of course, there are plenty of words that use V – a mere 34 pages in the OED start with V – and then there will be plenty of others that use V somewhere or other. If we look at the frequency of use of each letter in the…

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U is far from Unnecessary

A few days ago we looked at how important U is to its soulmate Q.  But without U we would also struggle to have so many opposites. The OED gives us more than fourteen pages of words starting with Un – from Unabashed through to Unzip. It makes life a little easier for students of English, as often they can confidently take a word, add Un,and there they have the opposite. Some of those fourteen pages list all the Under words, which in itself is a useful addition to so many composite words.  Browsing through some of these Under  words give us some amusing possibilities. How about… undertaker – it’s fine…

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