New or old?

Do you like the idea that many of the words you use everyday come from centuries ago when the world was small and life was simple? Did you know, for example, that the ‘barbecue’ probably comes from the 17th century Spanish word ‘barbacoa’ or even the indigenous South American people – the Arawaks – who used the word to describe a wooden frame on posts – food for thought, so to speak. (info courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary). Or do you like the idea of the newcomers on the block…OED tells us that ‘byte’ cropped around the 1960s as ‘an…

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Where do our words come from?

Looking through a dictionary is like having the best kind of history lesson…us Brits are as much of a mixture as our language – or vice versa.  The Oxford English Dictionary, tells us that the origin of’by-law’  probably comes from Middle English, which in turns comes from Old Norse.  So, that’s our Nordic influence – and then we have the French, who gave us words like ‘cabaret’ (where it meant wooden structure) and it seems they got it from the Middle Dutch who got it from the Old Picard word ‘camberet’ which meant ‘little room’. Now I am confused – how…

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So many words for snow

Did you see the recent press article that told us just how many words the Scots have for ‘snow’ – it turns out there are around 421 – just imagine! But then I am guessing the Scots have a little more experience of the white stuff than us southerners…or am I tempting fate!

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Welcome

It’s good to see you, stick around we are going to have some fun with words… We have always been fascinated with words – in fact, back in 1990, when Outset first took its baby steps into the world of publishing, we used to have a ‘word of the day’ – writing it proudly on the office noticeboard. Words that intrigued us back then included: poodlefaker – a man who habitually chooses to socialise with women (and why on earth not, I hear you cry) discombulated – disconcert or confuse (a feeling that we became familiar with over the years…)

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Words, words, words

We have 26 letters here in the UK and from that relatively small number of tools we have created over one million words.  There’s a sobering thought.  How many of those one million delights are left on the sidelines and never asked to join in the dance? With this website and its associated publications, I am hoping to explore as many of those million words as I can – the ones that make us laugh and cry, the ones that leave us feeling confused and the ones that help us to understand each other and the world around us. I…

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