Words at Play

All of the articles in this edition of Words at Play come from the venerable Guardian.  There are many more articles about words at the newspaper’s website, but I found those below to be particularly interesting.

“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose would by any other name smell as sweet,” says Juliet in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet.  But is that true about the names that we are given – or give ourselves?  If true, then why did Frances Ethel Gumm change her name to Judy Garland?  Why did Reginald Kenneth Dwight change his name to Elton John?  (Actually, he changed his name to Elton Hercules John.)  Would Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. have had a successful movie career if he had not changed his name to Rock Hudson?  And finally, Barbara Streisand, dropped the second “a” from her first name because she hated the name, but didn’t want to totally change it  The Brooklyn-born Streisand, considered a bit of a kook early in her career, also claimed to have been “born in Madagascar and reared in Rangoon.”

So, what’s in a name?  A lot according to this article.

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Is British English being Americanized?  And does that worry the British?  The answers are “yes,” and “yes.”

English continues to change in another way: through the coining of new words.  The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) just received its quarterly update and about 1,000 new words were added.

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What are emojis, where do they come from, and why are they so popular?

Here is another interesting article about emojis and the OED word of the year for 2015.

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The Oxford University Press recently published a four volume dictionary detailing the origins of nearly 50,000 surnames from Britain and Ireland.  Even if your surname is not British or Irish you might still find it in the dictionary since people from many countries have settled in Britain or Ireland over the last few hundred years.  Just reading the article was fascinating.  For instance the surname Baxter originally meant “baker,” and the surname Short might have originated as a facetious nickname for someone who was tall.

You can purchase the dictionary through Amazon for $329.30, but you might also be able to access it free through your local library’s internet resources.

Be sure to watch the embedded videos in the article.

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