Frequently Asked Questions
ABOUT THE SITE:
How do I get an etymological query
- 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
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
- 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
BEFORE you send comments on previous issues, be sure to check the
You... column in subsequent issues to make sure we did not already address the topic upon which you wish to comment.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
137 (and here),
Issue 138, and Issue
Why are you placing
commas outside quotation marks?
up with the Curmudgeons' Corner column?
- Read our philosophy regarding that column
in Issue 178.
There are three common English words which
end in -gry. Hungry 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.
about the derivation of obscenities?
- Find discussions
of several such words here.
interested in the etymology of sexual slang.