Issue 197, page 4

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From Burt Pierce:

I'm surprised your etymology [of trump] did not include the French root: tromper... to fool.

We did not mention it as there is no evidence that it is related to the English trumpTrumped up certainly sounds as if it could be related to the French, but, again, there is no real etymological evidence of a link.  We can make reasonable suppositions, but that is all they are until a connection is found.

From JoS. Chiaravalloti:

[Regarding happen, discussed in the TOWFI free e-mail newsletter which is a companion to this site; sign up on the home page.] Mayhap you are correct. And haply shall ye find many cognates without mishap. Dare we include happily and happy among them? Perhaps by happenchance the good luck sense persists in some of these cognates?

Indeed, thank you for naming these cognates of happen

From Rubyblue Black:

If you notice an increase in subscribers or hits to your site, it might be because I placed a link to it on today, after someone else turned me on to it. ( 

As you may already be aware, BookCrossing is, as defined in the first Concise Oxford English Dictionary of this century, "the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise." (

There are over 323,000 BookCrossers all over the world, many of us native English speakers, and many of us fluent non-native English speakers, and when I saw your wonderful site, I knew lots of them would find it interesting too.

Keep up the good work!


Thanks very much!  This is a great idea that has been around for a while, and it is exciting that the name of the practice has made it into the OED.  Congratulations!

From S. Leak:

The tsetse fly Glossina species belongs to the family Glossinidae, not Tabanidae.

Was the tsetse fly in the Tabanidae (horsefly, deerfly) family at one time?  The OED has it as Tabanidae.  Perhaps a letter to the editor(s) of the OED is in order?

From Chris:

Do you have any thoughts on how Ted and Ned evolved as pet names for Edward? It's easy to see how, in other pet names, consonants have mutated, but it's a mystery to me how new consonants creep in, seemingly from nowhere.

Ned is the product of misdivision:  the phrase mine Ed was heard as my Ned.  This mechanism is not uncommon in English.  Uncle was originally nuncle, for example.  Ted is a bit of a mystery.  It is also the short form of Theodore, and it may be that it originated there and was later used as a pet form of Edward because it contained ed.

From Paul:

In my newspaper, a "know it all" defined the word firkin as a unit of measure. He believes it refers to 1/4 of a barrel. I, however, recall a description and a drawing showing it as being similar to a codpiece except that it was worn by a woman in Elizabethan England. Any truth to it?

You are thinking of merkinFirkin is indeed a unit of measure.

From Matt:

In the Sez You section of the site, Steve Parks writes, "... and (let's see if I can get this right) I have to PRACTISE my guitar at home to be able to PRACTICE it well in public." I actually wasn't aware that practise was anything other than the British spelling and practice the American spelling, and I thought they could both be used as both nouns and verbs. But I looked it up, not seeing the difference between his two uses very well, and it seems to me, from the definition I found, that he hasn't given the intended (assumably) example. He's using practice twice, both times as the infinitive form of the verb. While it doesn't seem that there's anything wrong with that, all he is showing is that practice as a verb can be spelled two different ways. The interesting distinction that seems to be made, as I look up information on the Internet, is that traditionally, at least, practise is a verb, and practice is a noun, as illustrated here, in the example I got from a University of Victoria website.

Practice is the noun and practise the verb:

"I will practise the guitar all day, but I find the practice of tuning tedious."

The distinction is quickly becoming obsolete in the U.S., but in Canada this is still the official usage.


If this is correct, I thought maybe you could place a clarifying statement in there. Thank you.

The OED does seem to support the assertion that practice is a noun and practise is a verb.  However, we think Steve Parkes was close:  Practising the guitar prepares one for the practice of playing the guitar in public.  (This distinction is not made in the U.S.  If you spell practice with an s, you'll be flogged.  Or something.)

From Felix Hoffman:

Hi, it's great to see that TOWFI is back with a new issue!  In your Spotlight section on pet names, you say that 'Richard is pronounced Rickard in German'.  I beg to differ on this point: Native speakers of standard German (I, for one) actually use a voiceless palatal fricative [] in that word, a sound that does not exist in English or French but is somewhat similar to the voiceless palato-alveolar sh-sound of fish.

Forgive us, Rick-ard is presently the Scandinavian pronunciation of Richard.  The pronunciation in Low German was similar to the Scandinavian one.

From Geoff Jackson:

There's quite a bit more to by and large than in your explanation. Take a look at these references (note - sailing close-hauled is sailing by):

From Torben Steeg:

Surely scientists' use of K as a shortening of kilo- (for 103 = 1000), e.g. in kilometre (km), preceded by a long way the computer scientists' adoption of the same prefix (for 210 = 1024) e.g. in kilobyte (kb)?

Though I'm sure it is the computing use that entered popular consciousness deeply enough to allow advertisers to apply the k- prefix to salaries and prices.

From Bill L:

The use of K for 1000 was in engineering use many decades before the 60's -[ I was there]. K dollars was a common management term in the 50's

We have no doubt.  However, it did not show up in the written record until the 1960's, connected with the computer industry.

From Stephen:

I suspect an ancient origin [of pizza] because the food itself stretches back to myth. You may recall that in the Aeniad, the Harpies curse Aeneas and his crew that they will be so hungry they will eat their tables.

When they arrive in Italy, lacking plates and tables, they bake flat hard bread to support their food, and after dining, start eating the bread now suffused with the dinner's juices, whereupon Aeneas says, "look, we're eating our tables !"

This was not the first pizza. But they would surely have realized immediately that you could actually bake food and a bread "plate" together - and that was the first pizza.

Bread has been used as a plate and vehicle for other foods for millennia. (Consider the English term trencher.) But the word pizza was not applied to such a concoction AND recorded as such until the 19th century.


Or read the last issue to see what all of these people are talking about!

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