Buxom [Adj.]


  1. (of a woman) Having a full, voluptuous figure, especially possessing large breasts.
  2. (dated, of a woman) Healthy, lively.
  3. (archaic) Cheerful, lively, happy.
  4. (obsolete) Flexible, pliant.

From Middle English buxum, buhsum (bendsome, flexible, pliant, obedient). Cognate with the Dutch buigzaam (flexible, pliant).

DIED. Robert Brooks, 69, canny businessman who, as chairman of Hooters, turned the bar-restaurant chain, famed for buxom waitresses in orange hot pants, into an international success. – Time, “Milestones” (2003, July 23)

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Snuggle [Verb.]


  1. To lie close to another person or thing, hugging or being cosy.
  2. To have sex.

It is related to the verb nestle, which derives from the Old English nestlian meaning “build a nest”.

Shakespeare and False Friends


There are a number of words in Shakespeare’s plays and poems which are deceptive to modern ears. They may seem familiar words but, in fact, camouflage a quite different meaning lost to modern English. In Linguistics, these words are called False Friends.

A False Friend is a word which has kept its form but has strayed from its original sense (or was a completely different word) so that the modern English word is false when compared to the original sense or word. Shakespeare likes to extend the wordplay further by often deliberately using words in their older senses. Consider the following words:

Lover
Modern: someone you are in a sexual relationship with, usually illicitly
Shakespeare: friend

Lover as friend precedes the modern meaning by a little over a century, with both dating back to the Middle English period. Shakespeare, however, punster that he is, uses lover almost exclusively in the old sense. If you do not know what he means, some Shakespearean situations can sound quite awkward, to say the least. Lorenzo, for example, fervently puts a plug in for Antonio to Portia as ‘a lover of my lord your husband’ (The Merchant of Venice, III.iv.7).

Friend
Modern: a person you know well, love and regard
Shakespeare: (primarily) lover

Friend is an Old English word which appears in texts as early as Beowulf; it derives from the Proto-Germanic frijōjanan and is cognate with the verb ‘to free’. It started with the sense we know today, with a slightly extended application to someone we hold in regard or a relative. This generalized sense, too, is encountered in Shakespeare and creates a pun or two. Now that you know what Shakespeare has in mind, you are clued in when Lady Capulet tells Juliet to stop crying, ‘So shall you feel the loss, but not the friend / Which you weep for’, and Juliet replies that she is weeping for her beloved — not the relative, ‘Feeling so the loss, I cannot choose but ever weep the friend’ (Romeo & Juliet, III.v.74-7).

Laconic [Adj.]


Using as few words as possible; pithy and concise.

From Latin adjective Lacōnicus meaning ‘Spartan, from Ancient Greek Λακωνικός. Laconia was the region inhabited and ruled by the Spartans, who were known for their brevity in speech.

Exonym


Exonyms are names used in a particular language to refer to a foreign nation or country; they can be completely different from the name that country uses (in its particular language) to qualify itself. Quite often, they can be of interest from a historical point of view because they can be surprisingly conservative. The exonym is sometimes preserved for hundreds of years after the political or ethnic entity it originally referred to ceased to be.

One of the best-known cases is Germany. Many nations share their linguistic origin with the German term Deutschland, even though they have sometimes assumed a quite different form i.e. Duitsland, Tedesco or Tyskland – from the Proto-Germanic Þeudiskaz. The Slavic peoples call the Germans Niemcy or similar which means ‘a mute’, someone who does not speak Slavic. The French and Spanish, among others, employ the name of the Alamanni tribe. The English, Italians and Russians, to name a few, use a derivative of the Latin Germania or Greek Γερμανία. And the Finns and Baltic states either refer to the name of the Saxon tribe or employ a word of unknown origin, like the Latvian Vacija or the Lithuanian Vokietija.

Consider these other cases:

  • The Latvians call Russia Krievija, referring to an ancient Slavic tribal union, the Krivichi;
  • The Turks call Greece Yunanistan and the Greeks Yunan, another very old exonym which probably has for origin the word ‘Ionia’, that is the Greek region on the coast of Asia Minor;
  • In a kind of an opposite logic, Russia was called Muscovy by the Poles, and then by other Europeans as a way to deny the claim of the Moscow-based government on the totality of Russian lands;
  • The Japanese used to call China Tang even hundreds of years after the end of that dynasty. In the late 19th- and early 20th century they resorted to an even older and more obscure word Shina, which had the advantage of being similar to the equivalent Western terms.

Also, there is something particularly curious about Roman exonyms; it seems the Romans gave completely random names to any people they encountered. A people that called itself Rasenna received the name Tuscans or Etruscans. The inhabitants of Carthage became Punics, and the Hellenes or Achaeans were Greeks. Celts became Galli or the Gauls.

“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.”
– George Bernard Shaw

Essence [Noun.]


  1. The inherent nature of a thing or idea.
  2. The true nature of anything, not accidental or illusory.

It derives from  the French essence, which in turn derives from the Latin essentia (the being or essence of a thing); this, from an artificial formation of esse (to be), to translate the Ancient Greek οὐσία (ousía, being).

Pencil [Noun.]


‘[Middle English] A pencil once denoted a fine paintbrush. It comes from Old French pincel, from a diminutive of Latin peniculus ‘brush’, itself a diminutive of penis ‘tail’. The verb was originally used in the 16th century in the sense ‘paint with a fine brush’.’

– Chantrell. G. edt. 2002. The Oxford Essential Dictionary of World Histories New York, United States: Berkley Publishing Group (2003) p. 370