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Frequently Asked Questions

ABOUT THE SITE   ABOUT PARTICULAR ETYMOLOGIES  
How do I get an etymological query answered?

Do you answer every query you receive?

What happened to your Archives/Database?

How can I comment on a current or previous issue?

Will you help me with an assignment for school/college?

How do I "subscribe" to your site?

Can you e-mail me an answer to my query?

Can you provide etymologies on a "rush" basis for journalists, academics and the like?

Who funds this site?

Do you accept advertising?

Why do you use that spindly little font?

Why are you placing commas outside quotation marks?

What's up with the Curmudgeons' Corner column?

There are three common English words which end in -gryHungry and angry are two of them.  What's the third?

Is it true that a colorful, or rather obscene, expression in English comes from the Medieval war insult pluck you?

There's an e-mail called Life in the 1500s floating around the internet, purporting to explain the derivations of several English words and phrases.  How accurate is it?

That aide to the mayor of Washington deserved to lose his job over using a racial slur (niggardly), didn't he?

Is it true that picnic derives from the offensive phrase pick a nigger which is basically a synonym for lynch?

What about the derivation of obscenities?

I'm interested in the etymology of sexual slang.

 ABOUT THE SITE:

How do I get an etymological query answered?

  • Search our site to determine if your word has already been addressed.  If you do not find your word, submit your query to us via the "Ask Us" link in the menu bar above.  On the "Ask Us" page you will find guidelines for submissions.

Do you answer every query you receive?

  • We'll be honest with you: no.  We receive hundreds of queries a week, and we only answer a few in each issue of Take Our Word For It.   However, we keep all worthy queries on file, so just because your query wasn't addressed within a few weeks after you sent it does not mean it will never be answered.    We try to e-mail those whose queries we use in a given week.

What happened to your Archives/Database?

  • You can browse the Back Issues page for a listing of all words covered in past issues.  Also, you can search the site now! Due to popular demand, all archived entries are available again.  We try to update the "Archives" occasionally, and we will note that in the What's New section.

How can I comment on a current or previous issue?

  • E-mail comments (NOT your query on specific words or phrases) on the current issue to melmike@takeourword.com.  BEFORE you send comments on previous issues, be sure to check the Sez You... column in subsequent issues to make sure we did not already address the topic upon which you wish to comment.  
  • Please note: if you have a comment about Curmudgeons' Corner, read the following before you write.  Our curmudgeons, Malcolm Tent and Barb Dwyer (and guests), are just that - curmudgeons.  It's their job to complain about what they see as abuse and misuse of English.  You don't need to tell us that they are being prescriptivist and elitist, or that they are essentially denying that English is a living, evolving language.  We know that.  We tell Barb and Malcolm that all the time.  They just don't listen and continue to complain.  And we continue to publish their comments for your enjoyment.

Will you help me with an assignment for school/college?

  • Significant numbers of our queries take the form "I am writing a term paper on the function of earthworms in soil aeration and it is due tomorrow.  Could you tell me the etymology of earthworm?"  Such queries are neither relevant to your term paper nor our web site.  We will ignore any such queries.  If you have a rush request, however, see below.

How do I "subscribe" to your site?

  • There is no subscription required to read our biweekly column at this site.  However, you may subscribe to our weekly preview newsletter.  We do provide etymologies in the newsletter, known as NOEs, or "newsletter-only etymologies", so that is an incentive to subscribe.  We also let you know when the latest issue has been published, what words are discussed in it, and we provide other information about us and the site.  We also include book and site reviews occasionally, as well as contests with prizes.  You may subscribe to the mailing list here.

Can you e-mail me an answer to my query?

  • No, not without there being a fee involved, because we receive hundreds of queries a week.  See below.  

Can you provide etymologies on a "rush" basis for journalists, academics and the like?

  • Yes, we can, but there's a small fee involved.  Write us using the link on this RUSH PAGE and we'll provide you more information (if you don't use that link we may miss your query).  We will respond to your initial e-mail within 18 hours and get you the information you need within 24 hours after you inform us that you'd like us to go forward with the research.  We'll provide you a professional report via e-mail in the word processor format of your choice.  We will provide you a hard copy of the professional report as well, with overnight delivery available.  We will cite all of our sources in the information we provide you.  We now accept payment by CREDIT CARD.  We'll let you know before you agree to the fee whether there is substantial etymological information available on your particular word or phrase.

Who funds this site?

  • We do, out of a love for the subject and a strong desire to share our knowledge with others.  Currently the only income we receive from this site comes from donations from readers, through our partnership with Amazon.com, and Google Adsense.  So far, that income amounts only to enough to purchase a few books to offer as prizes in our contests and to cover a fraction of our internet service costs.  This is why we are unable to publish more regularly, as our day jobs take a great deal of our time, and without them, we cannot survive.  We are trying to find a balance of the day jobs and TOWFI.  Regarding donations, donations made to us from readers in the U.S. are not tax deductible, but we are offering a unique Take Our Word For It bookmark to thank you for your donation.  Visit the TIERE page for more information on how you can make a donation.  We'll also list you on our Donors Page.  If you are a business, see below.

Do you accept advertising?

  • No, unless you have a remarkable deal for us.  We are now using Google Adsense.

Why do you use that spindly little font?

  • We don't.  It's your browser.  We actually use a nice, bold font, in a large size.  People who see our site properly commend us on how easy it is to read.  Read previous discussions of this topic.  These links will take you directly to the applicable section of each issue: Issue 134, Issue 135, Issue 136, Issue 137 (and here), Issue 138, and Issue 139.

Why are you placing commas outside quotation marks?

What's up with the Curmudgeons' Corner column?

  • Read our philosophy regarding that column in Issue 178.

ABOUT PARTICULAR ETYMOLOGICAL ISSUES:

There are three common English words which end in -gryHungry and angry are two of them.   What's the third?

  • See our fun answer to this pre-Internet hoax/stupid joke in Issue 51.  The original text of the riddle is: 
    • There are three words in the English language that end with "gry." One is hungry and the other is angry. What is the third word? Everyone uses this word every day, everyone knows what it means and knows what it stands for. If you have listened very closely I have already told you the third word.
  • The original answer is nowhere near as interesting as ours!  The "third word" in the riddle is variously interpreted to be "three" (the third word in the first sentence) or "hungry" (the third word in the second sentence).  See why we call it stupid?

Is it true that a colorful, or rather obscene, expression in English comes from the Medieval war insult pluck you?

  • Read about this etymological query in Issue 25.

There's an e-mail called Life in the 1500s floating around the internet, purporting to explain the derivations of several English words and phrases.  How accurate is it?

  • It's utter balderdash.  Read how we debunked it in Issue 39.

That aide to the mayor of Washington deserved to lose his job over using a racial slur (niggardly), didn't he?

  • That's not the issue.  The issue was whether he actually used a racial slur or not.  We provide the answer in Issue 26.

Is it true that picnic derives from the offensive phrase pick a nigger which is basically a synonym for lynch?

  • No way!  We provide you with the etymological AND historical evidence on this one in Issue 32.

What about the derivation of obscenities?

  • Find discussions of several such words here.

I'm interested in the etymology of sexual slang.

Comments, additions? Send to Melanie & Mike: melmike@takeourword.com
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2003 TIERE
Last Updated 10/21/06 09:09 PM