Posts Tagged ‘etymology’

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?