Archive for the ‘word of the week’ Category

wankoofer (n.)

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

This is not the first instant of a word of the week which is quite new. Kenlee was the first. And as of yet I have not found any written occurance of this weeks example. However, over the last few weeks it has featured abundantly in German television and especially radio broadcasts of the currently ongoing Olympic winter games.


niagaraishly (adv.)

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

It is not the first time I mention Stephen Fry in this little series of celebratory essays. “Celebratory of what?” you may well ask yourself. Well, in my opinion, the inventiveness of language users is as much cause for celebration as the versatility of language itself. People are constantly inventing new words – or new uses for an old word. Some people are better at it than others and some simply excel. Stephen Fry is of the last category.


fortnight (n.)

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

When I was about fourteen or fifteen years old I was utterly in love with the stories about Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion Dr Watson. Possibly that is one of the reasons I have been so captivated by House MD, a character very closely modelled on Holmes. The strange yet often quite easily deducible vocabulary allured to me. Words in Doyle were my favourite puzzles.


get outside sth (v.)

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

My old and tattered volumes - in urgent need of being replaced!

From when I was about eleven I was fascinated by Sherlock Holmes stories. Back in the GDR the books were not easy to come by so I spent a lot of time visiting the few used book shops in my town quite frequently in order not to miss the occasional copy. I must have just turned fifteen when I got my hands on a three volume Wordsworth Classics edition of Sherlock Holmes stories. The battered look of the volumes testifies to my having read them many a time since then.


recaffeinated (adj.)

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

One of my favourite authors is Stephen Fry. He became famous as a television comedian in the 1980s co-authoring and co-starring with Hugh Laurie (now known as Dr House) in A Bit of Fry and Laurie. He also appeared in such classics as Jeeves and Wooster and Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder.
In his writing he quite often fearlessly explores the limits of language. However, he never loses respect for it, never blows up the balloon all the way to bursting.


kenlee (v.)

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Today’s word cannot be found in any dictionary. Yet. That is because I made it up myself. Not entirely out of the blue, naturally. There was some inspiration in a current viral video that I have embedded with this article.


bankrupt (adj.)

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Current events in the world make it seem appropriate to include this weeks word into the series. Especially since its interesting history reveals quite a bit about how bankers whose businesses failed were dealt with in the past.


ambidextrous (adj.)

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

Actually I wanted to follow up with another very nice alliteration that I heard this week. But I will save it for another week.

I rather think it is time, however, to introduce the first juggling related piece of vocabulary here. It is a word from ordinary language, which is saying a lot because juggling has, in a very literal sense, a language of its own, namely an artificial formal notation for writing down juggling patterns. But I will not trouble you with that. Yet.


linger (v.)

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

English is very good at changing nouns into verbs. Or maybe not changing them but instead simply using them as nouns. Toboggan, for example, the last word in the series can be used as a verb in a sentence like The weather was so beautiful, we stayed outside tobogganing all afternoon. Linger, however is a ‘genuine’ verb and, in fact, the first verb featuring in this little word of the week series.


toboggan (n.)

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

picture credits: This image is available from Library and Archives Canada under the reproduction reference number PA-008492 and under the MIKAN ID number 3194118

Last week I introduced you to an English word with French origin. Today I give you the Native American toboggan. The first time I saw this kind of sled was in the film Home Alone (1990). The main character Kevin is left behind by accident as his family goes on Christmas Holiday. Among all the stupid things he does while they are away is going down the front-room staircase on a toboggan. But it was not a standard model as the movie geeks at IMDB will tell you but rather a film prop:

“As Kevin flies through the air outside the front door after he sleds down the stairs, you can see the rollers on the bottom of the toboggan.”InternetMovieDataBase :;7 December 2008)


chanticleer (n.)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

English is a language with an incredibly large pool of other languages adding to its lexicon. Probably the more languages you speak the more obvious the etymological analogies become. If you speak French this week’s word will be no trouble for you to figure out. Henry David Thoreau writes in his Walden:

As I have said, I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.” H. D. Thoreau, Walden, and Civil Disobedience, New York et al. 1986, p. 128.


town (n.)

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Etymology is the study of the history of words. It is also one of the most interesting and most enlightening aspects of linguistics. The basic question of etymology is

Where does [word X] come from?


keen (adj.)

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Have you noticed that my posts for word of the week have something in common. Both times I have emphasized phonetic qualities. In the first case it was the sound of what the word described, and last week it was the spitting sound of the word itself.


spectre (n.)

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

I came upon this wonderful word while reading Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great over the autumn holidays. Literally it means ghost or phantom. But usually it signifies an event or object of terror, something that really has people scared. And often this object of fear is portrayed as looming just behind the horizon, an imminent danger ready to strike any moment.


blow-out (n.)

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

What I like so much about this word is its graphic quality. It describes the sudden escape of air from a punctured tire. But also a big party or a great feast with wonderful food prepared in large quantities. The connection between the two meanings, describing a lavish meal or party in terms of an explosion is what I find so appealing.