WORD OF THE YEAR: YES -- IT'S "NO"!
The votes have been counted, and the judges have given their decision -- the Australian ‘Word of the ‘Year for 2023: ‘No.’ It won by a country mile! Well back, in second place, was ‘Controligarchs’ (powerful celebrities and corporations that tell everyone else what to do). The runners up were: ‘Voice’, ‘misinformation’, ‘AI’, ‘Woke’, ‘diversity’, ‘Airbus-Albo’, ‘colonization’, and ‘midwit’ (meaning a person one step up from a nitwit).
Q: Hi Kel, Love your segment on Credlin, Keen to know if the saying is "spitting" or "splitting" image referring to a look alike. Cheers, Carly VIC.
A: It is 'spitting image.' There are several theories about how these came about. The two most common suggest that our modern phrase is, via one or other of these forms, a corruption of spit and image. But why spit? One view is that it’s the same as our usual meaning of liquid ejected from the mouth, perhaps suggesting that one person is as like the other as though he’d been spat out by him. But some writers make a connection here with seminal ejaculation, which may account for the phrase being used originally only of the son of a father. Quite a different origin is suggested by other writers, who argue that spit is really an abbreviation of spirit, suggesting that someone is so similar to another as to be identical in mind as well as body.
Q: Kel, I've noticed on social media and on human rights websites, that people are using the term endosex as being opposite to intersex. I'm fairly sure this is an incorrect usage, since endo is a prefix with Greek origins and inter is a prefix with Latin origins. Shouldn't the correct term pairing be endosex/ectosex and intersex/intrasex? Anne, NSW
A: Although 'endo-' (as a prefix) comes from Greek it is also found in what is called 'scientific Latin' and so can be combined with 'sex' (which comes from classical Latin). There is a precedent for this combination in 'endogamy' (marrying within a clan or family grouping). The term 'endosex' is not found in major dictionary -- so I have no idea what people imagine it means.
Q: G'day Kel. Just listening back to the 'Word Clinic' from Thursday night, you were discussing the origin of "gig". I once heard that it was a shortened form of the word "engagement", which explains why it's used by musicians. Have you come across this? Cheers, Horsy VIC
A: I have. It's not accepted by most linguists who tend to see it as a post facto invention. The verb 'gig' (moving) seems more likely.
Q: Hi Kel, regarding "Cozzie livs". Every time I hear it it reminds me of the worship song "Because He Lives" ...(I can face tomorrow). Now if you haven't already been thinking the same thing, I guess you will be. Timmy
A: I am now!
Q: Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet's right hand man at Berkshire Hathaway has just passed away at the age of 99. He was a brilliant investor and main reason for the solid financial state Berkshire Hathaway is now in. Reading about him in the Australian today, it was said that one of his favourite words was "assiduity" because it meant "sitting on your arse until you finish the job". I would be interested to hear if any of our dictionaries or reference books have the same definition. Adrian, VIC.
A: "assiduity" actually means 'constant or close attention to the business in hand, unremitting application, persistent endeavour, perseverance, diligence.' It appeared in English at the start of the 1600s (from a Latin source word, via French). I suspect Charlie was having a lend of us with his joke!
Q: Kel, I enjoy your column every day. Now 85,I grew up in (mainly country) Queensland. Our three meals were always breakfast, dinner, tea. John
A: From the correspondence I'm getting, that puts you in the majority!
Q: When I lived in England in the early seventies it was explained to me that working class people had dinner in the middle of the day and their main meal was tea – possibly because it was taken early. The Upper Class had luncheon, afternoon or high, tea, dinner then supper before retiring. I suspect our usage is a mix of working class and Northern usage. David
A: I suspect the northern influence was very strong -- although my forebears came from Cornwall in the south!
Q: Breakfast, dinner and tea where I grew up in Yorkshire. At school we had "dinner monitors" to maintain some level of meal time decorum. During school holidays, when kids "played out", the neighbourhood mums would sing out from their front doors "dinner's ready..!" to summon their brood home. Leaving home for university at the age of 18 to the south west city of Bristol, my first "landlady" introduced me to "supper's ready" for the evening meal, while my childhood experience of supper was a couple of Ryvita biscuits served to my weary dad before he retired in preparation for his next shift at the bakery at 5 the next morning. Keep it up Kel and happy Christmas! Graeme
A: 'Supper' was a word I never heard as a child -- it is interesting how regional language can be!
Q: Press: I still use this word and I put the freshly washed linen or towels, neatly folded, at the bottom of the relevant pile. When they get to the top of the pile they are "pressed" without labour or the use of other resources. Tea: Always thought of the use of this in place of dinner or supper and using the word "dinner" for the midday meal to be both a matter of class and geographical usage. I did and do not expect to hear either of these substitutions from members of the upper classes, for instance. Kind regards, Clare
A: Yes, I suspect 'tea' was a class marker. But did the upper classes not sometimes 'take tea' on the terrace at the grand country houses?
Q: Reading your comments on ‘old words’. My Dad used to say “You’ll spreeth”. Meaning the feeling you get if you don’t dry yourself properly after washing. I’ve never heard it since. He was born in Bristol in 1908. Sue, ACT
A: It seems to have started as an Old English word meaning 'to increase' (as a variation on 'spread'). Later it came to mean 'to extend outwards.' Did he mean that the warmth of a newly washed body will flow out from you if you don't dry properly?
Q: Press: I remember it being the ‘hot press’ because that’s the cupboard where sheets and towels were kept that had the immersion heater in it, it kept everything warm and presumably the heat helped the many items to be ‘pressed’. I also used to use mine to prove dough for baking as the house was never warm enough! Tea: I’m still confused about dinner and tea! I was born in the Congo, grew up in N Ireland, Belgium, Tripoli and France, then on to the UK. It was only when I got to Australia in my 40’s that I managed to decide that the last meal of the day was ‘dinner’!! I remember having ‘tea’ with my grandparents in Northern Ireland at around 6pm, and we’d listen to Coronation St, or Crossroads on the TV. Radio still had to be ‘warmed up’ in those days too. I’m 67, so not really that long ago, historically! I still also remember ‘elevenses’ which really was our ‘morning tea’. Afternoon tea seems to me to be a very Aussie thing?! Kind regards Sarah
PS: I cannot understand the absolute hatred abounding in our world. It depresses and distresses me.
A: Clearly something has happened in our society to change it for the worse. Have we foolishly imported ancient rivalries and ancient hatreds from overseas?
Q: My Mom had a hollow hassock where she stored the Electrolux! Rodney.
A: How useful!
Q: Yes Kel, I still have a hassock under the sofa for my use as the sofa (should I call it that?) is too high for me even though I am tall! We had tea in the evening and dinner at midday on Sundays. Kel, I have a funny saying that my 103 year old friend says when the discussion has got to a stalemate -- With a wave of her hand, up in the air, she says, "It doesn’t matter, the smoke goes up the chimney just the same.” Have you heard that before? Regards, Dorothy
A: No, I've never come across that saying before. As a phrase to defuse a divisive debate it strikes me as a wise old proverb.
Q: We are regular viewers of your segment on the Peta Credlin show. Can you please let us know the origins of the term ‘storm in a teacup’? Thank you. Kim and Greg
A: It has been used to mean a commotion in a circumscribed area since the late 1500s. The Oxford says it probably comes from Latin, from a line in Cicero: fluctus excitare in simpulo (which conveys the idea of raising waves in a simple situation.)
Q: Kel, Could you explain where the term ‘chin chin’ came from and why it’s used before drinking a glass of wine? Thank you, Fotini.
A: It's an Anglicized version of a Chinese expression. It is said to be a traditional gesture of greeting or valediction used in China, made by clasping the hands together in front of the chest, shaking them gently, and bowing, often with the use of the accompanying words ‘chin-chin’. It was brought back to Britain (and borrowed into English) in the 1600s. Over time it was adopted as a toast or salutation before drinking.
Q: Hi Kel I haven't heard any of those terms ("cozzie livs") used in any conversations I've had and I'm glad I haven't. What I do hear a lot is the full term "cost of living", it's affecting everyone especially the working poor. Cheers Pam
A: It seems that the Macquarie people instead of looking for the most influential or typical word of the year looked only at new coinages. In reality their WOTY is actually their choice of the most interesting NEW word of the year. That puts them on a different track to everyone else.
Q: G'day folks. Any clue on the phrase "worth his salt"? Did people ever actually get paid in salt? Mark.
A: Yes, Roman soldiers did. Salt was a rare (well, rare enough) and valuable commodity in the ancient world, so soldiers in the Roman legions received part of their remuneration as salt.
Q: G/day Kel. All these so-called weather experts lately have taken to report on the amount of rain as “a month's worth” in a day. Pray tell, what constitutes the “worth “? Value? Surely average must be a better adjective? I think you’re “worth” more time on Credlin , cheers. Bill
A: From the beginning, 'worth' has meant: 'having a specified monetary or material value.' (That was its earliest meaning in Old English.) So, the weather pundits are trying to tell us that a month's 'amount' of rain fell in a day -- and 'worth' can be used to mean 'amount.' We have to let them off on this one.
Q: Can you please explain the origin of the saying 'pushing the envelope' Also, the confusion with people pronouncing vulnerable as vunerable. Gavin
A: (1) "pushing the envelope" comes from aeronautics and means "to approach or go beyond the current limits of performance." It comes from 1970. But before this (from 1944) engineers, talked about the "flight envelope" meaning the performance limits of an aircraft. I guess they did this because an envelope that something which has limits, which "contains" its contents.
(2) What you've noticed is what linguists call the dark "L" -- and is, sadly, very common. I assume some people have difficulty curling back the tongue to make the "L" sound in the middle of some words.
Q: Kel my word is "Show Pony" and I don’t mean a horse. I mean “show pony” as it attributes to the actions of people in positions of influence milking the media. Marcia, QLD
A: This is an Australian coinage. Here's how the Oxford defines it: 'A person who takes excessive care over his or her appearance; an ostentatious or showy person (in early use esp. a man). Also: a person who is attractive or has public appeal but who lacks substance, ability, etc.' It's recorded from the 1930s with that meaning. I suspect that the original concept was to compare (unfavorably) a 'show pony' with a 'work horse.' My memory is that Andrew Peacock was called a 'show pony.'
Q: Hi Kel, I have a question for you, I see politicians, on a daily basis, saying this or that person or government is lacking in ‘competency’. This jars with me because I think they should be saying ‘competence’. Can you say which is correct please? Thanks, Sue
A: They do have slightly different meanings -- even though they are clearly closely related. The core meaning of 'competence' is an ability, while the core meaning of 'competency' is 'sufficient' (having sufficient supplies or abilities or whatever). Both came from the same French source word in the 16rh century, and in the context you refer to I think 'competence' would be correct.
Q: What is the origin of 'Tally ho' Crag, VIC
A: It came into English in the 1700s from a similar French word shouted on the hunting field to rally the hunters.
Q: Why do we say “at wits end”? Connie NSW
A: It first appears in print long ago -- in Middle English in Langland's 'Piers Plowman (1300s). The saying is calling your intellect, your brain power, your 'wits' (as in 'have your wits about you'), and 'at wit's end' is to have reached the end of how you can reason or think about (this particular problem).
Q: Why have British words that have had a sizeable mention in trove newspaper archives like "lorry" or "glove-compartment" never catch on in Australia? Even "motorway". I don't understand why some British words never caught on with the Australian public. David.
A: The "why" questions are the hardest to answer. Aussies tend to say 'truck' and 'glove box'. However, 'motorway' is a common term in NSW for major new roads.
Q: Please explain the origin of the word Clickbait. David WA
A: It means internet content whose main purpose is to encourage users to follow a link to a web page, esp. where that web page is considered to be of low quality or value. Recorded from 1999.
Q: Cut the Rug -- I've always assumed it's something to do with two people dancing but can't figure out why! Ray.
A: It's American slang from the 1930s -- referring to the vigorous motion of dancers across the dance floor, which is taken as damaging the carpet.
Q: On Sky recently a lot of commentators have mentioned talking from both sides of their mouth (eg Anthony Albanese talking of jew hatred on the one hand and islamophobia on the other). I would love to know the meaning and origin of this phrase. Thanks, Susan SA
A: A good one! I'll do some research and talk about it next week with Peta.
Q: Where does the expression " a fish rots from the head" come from? Every fisherman knows that a fish left in the sun rots from the stomach first not the head. Bruce, QLD
A: This was never meant literally. It is an invented way of saying that the problem in any organization is at the top. It is the leadership or management that is the problem, not the people in the lower ranks.
Q: What is the origin of the term "hell in a hand basket", as in the phrase "going to hell in a hand basket"? Simon, QLD
A: It possibly comes from the fact that when French aristocrats (during the French revolution) were guillotined their heads fell into a basket at the foot of the guillotine. We're not certain -- but this looks likely.
Q: Kel, "The bucket list": You should have related it back to "kick the bucket" - when someone was hanged, the bucket they were standing on was kicked away. Trevor, QLD
A: 'Kick the bucket' does not come from hanging people. It comes from the slaughtering of pigs, who were hung up from a rafter, head down, their feet near the rafter or beam, and then had their throats cut. Their feet would kick the beam -- which was called by an old name (from a French source) and sounded like 'bucket.' I know it sounds odd (and less likely than the popular suicide or hanging story) -- but the linguists who've done the historical research insist that is the real origin of 'kick the bucket.'
Q: What is the origin of “kidnap”? Glenys VIC
A: 'Kidnap' is recorded from the late 1600s. Originally it meant taking children (or others) to work as slave labourers. 'Kid' was (in those days) used to mean an indentured worker, and 'nap' meant to take or steal.
Q: What does Woke mean? Terry WA
A: It started out to mean 'alert' or 'aware' of disadvantage and oppression, but it has changed these days to mean 'bullying political correctness.' In other words, the 'Woke' are those who will harass and bully anyone who doesn't agree with them. (Meanwhile, the rest of us stick to rational persuasion.)
Q: I have heard that the origin of MAN in policeman, chairman, fireman etc, is not so much referring to the gender of the person, rather the MANDATE to perform that duty.
Can Kel confirm if there is any truth to this. That make the practice of replacing that with PERSON seem rather silly. Ross, QLD
A: In policeman, postman, fireman the 'man' part does come for the standard word 'man' (not from mandate). However, it was always intended to be -- to use two Greek words-- anthropos not andros. In other words, it was always the aphetic (or shortened) form of 'mankind.' So, yes, substituting 'person' is silly and unnecessary.
Q: Dear Mr. Richards, Still following you from France, I do find some of your explanations fascinating. Which is why I would like you to explain to me and possibly others the difference between Judaism and Zionism. I noticed an article from Rebecca Downer on antisemitism and anti-Zionism. It got me thinking, that perhaps Zionism takes in the varieties of Judaism. While I think the whole thing is abhorrent . People are people although I am having trouble applying that principle to the Pro-Palestinians. I at 82 would be there fighting for Israel if younger. I remember reading and seeing photos of the holocaust and this horrifies me. Best regards, Lesley.
A: 'Zion' is the ancient (Biblical) name for the site of Jerusalem ('Mount Zion'). From this name the word 'Zionism' was developed to mean: 'a movement among Jewish people for the re-establishment of a Jewish nation in Palestine. Later: a movement for the development and protection of the state of Israel. Also: advocacy of or support for this.' Zionism was established as a political movement in 1897 at the initiative of Theodor Herzl (1860–1904). The state of Israel was established (by decree of the United Nations) in 1948.
Q: Dear Kel, What is the correct pronunciation for the word "contribute"? I was always taught that the word is contr(i)bute, with the emphasis on the "i". However, I constantly hear reporters and commentators on Sky saying "contr(a)bute, with emphasis on an "a". It is most annoying.
As far as I am aware there is no such thing as a "contr(a)bution. It is "contribute and contribution. Please correct me before I throw something at my TV and the next person on Sky who says that. Daryl.
A: I must confess that I have not noticed people turning the medial "i" into an "a" -- I'll listen for it in future. The Oxford says there are two (equally) correct pronunciations of the word. Either kuhn-TRIB-yoot or KON-truh-byoot -- neither of which have a medial "a".
Q: Hello Kel, When talking to a noted Australian authority on philological matters and usage forty years ago I was surprised when he asked "Have you noticed the growing misuse of the expression 'as such'?" I hadn't, at that time, nor for at least twenty years further on. Now, however, it seems common - both in conversations and in journalism - to hear/see 'as such' employed when clearly the user's intent is to convey the sense of 'consequently', or 'therefore'.
During a (now discontinued) subscription to the New York Times, I seemed to encounter the solecism with startling frequency. David.
A: The Oxford makes it clear that 'as such' should be used to mean: 'As being what the name or description implies; in that capacity.' I am alarmed to hear that it is being misused.
Q: A quick question Kel. Have you heard of the saying "A pack of poo tickets" a description our stepmother used if our bedroom was untidy. If you have, could you let us know when & where it came from, thank you so much in advance. Thank you for all your wonderful emails. Stay well.
A: Any writing that is difficult to decipher was once labelled “a pakapoo ticket”. It’s an expression that seems to have died out, but still I remember being told, as a school boy: “This exercise book looks like a pakapoo ticket, Richards.” From that use it was extended to describe anything that was untidy or disorderly. The earliest citation for this sort of use is from Eric Lambert’s novel, based on his wartime experiences, called “Twenty Thousand Thieves” (1951) in which an officer complains that the platoon’s pay book “looks like a pak-a-poo ticket”. The origin of the expression is a Chinese gambling game played with slips of paper marked with columns of characters. The earliest citation for this (original) use of the expression is from 1886. Because of the inability of Aussies to read these Chinese characters, such slips were said to look like untidy scribblings. “Pakapoo ticket” is another distinctively Aussie contribution to the English language.
Q: Hi Kel, 'daggy' hasn't died I'm from the bush and we used it a lot, as a humorous insult (if there can be such a thing) and for a drop kick, we would say he's such a dag. However, we would only use the word to describe males. I don't know if it's still used today but it is in my family and I'm sure it would be back in good old Broken Hill. Cheers Pam
A: I'm delighted to know that 'daggy' is alive and well! (PAM'S EMAIL WAS JUST ONE OF MANY REASSURING ME THAT 'DAGGY' IS STILL THRIVING TODAY -- MY THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO WROTE.)
Q: Kel, my family were having a discussion on the term “bucket list” which then got onto the phrase kicking the bucket. What is the origin of this? Thanks, Brett (Love your work and listen to you on John Stanley)
A: From the title of the 2007 movie "Bucket List" (the list of things you want to do before you
'kick the bucket') -- so we can credit the screenwriter Justin Zackham with coining this expression.
Q: Sky News is a great source of interesting words and sayings. Can you tell us about "London to a Brick" used by Peta Credlin and Roh\wan Dean's "Predictive Dysfunction" used on Outsiders. Tony.
A: "London to a brick on" is an old gambling term referring to very long odds. It was possibly coined by the great race caller Ken Howard. 'Predictive dysfunction' is Rowan's new expression to say that all climate predictions are wrong.
Q: Hi Kel, I've come up with a new collective noun. It is pleasingly alliterative and also reversible.
I propose that we refer to a group of woke people as a wank, eg. "Look at that wank of wokers".
Similarly, "look at that woke of wankers" Cheers, Anthony
A: Very inventive. Let's see if it catches on.
Q: David suggests the word 'coo-ee' may have comes from a bird -- the Eastern Koel. He says that may be where the Aborigines got it from.
A: The Birdlife Australia website tells me that: "The male Eastern Koel advertises its presence by a loud ascending whistle or ‘koo-el’, monotonously repeated." So that may well be the origin of coo-ee.
Q: What is the origin of ‘lickety split?’ Adam
A: It comes from an old expression (early 1800s) in which a 'lick' was a fast burst of pace -- to which 'split' was added as an intensifier.
Q: My father was born in 1962 and I asked him, "why did your parents generation say 'trousers' or 'strides', but yours say 'pants'?" Why feel the need to change? As up until the 1990s, 'trousers' was still used. David.
A: 'Trousers' is an old word (mid 1600s) and came into English from Irish and Scots Gaelic-probably as a plural form of an older word ('trouse' or 'trews'). The word 'strides' is not Australian in origin but British. It started as a tailoring term form the movement allowed by a pair of trousers -- the 'stride' of the trousers. 'Strides' was adopted as an informal name for trousers from 1889. 'Pants' began as an Americanism -- an abbreviation of 'pantaloon.' I don't hear 'strides' used much these days, but I still use the word 'trousers' and I hear it used. So, I am not persuaded that it is obsolete and replaced by 'pants.'
Q: Kel, can you please explain the meaning of the term “gig economy” and its origin? Love your column. Thank you. Tessa
A: In this context a 'gig' means: 'a temporary job, performed on a freelance, informal, or on-demand basis.' (Oxford English Dictionary) Why that sort of job is called a 'gig' is unclear (the Oxford says 'origin unknown'). It probably started with musicians who (from as early as 1908) called a performance a 'gig.' Earlier (in the 1600s) there was the verb 'to gig' meaning: 'to move backwards and forwards.' So, perhaps the musicians' use of 'gig' sprang from the idea of movement. These days that part of the economy that is built on temporary jobs (such as some delivery services) is called 'the gig economy.'
Q: Dear Kel, I listen to you every Thursday on John Stanley’s program. Last night the word “proletariat” came up. I had always thought this was a French word. I first learnt it in 1969 when I studied the French Revolution for my Senior (year 12) exams. This was the first time that the working class rose up against the upper classes. I’m wondering if Karl Marx stole this word from the French and popularised it in his Communist manifesto. It’s amazing how memory works. I can still recite the causes of the French Revolution to this day. Memory can also be incorrect so I am wondering if you could research this for me and report back next Thursday. Thank you
A: Your memory is spot on! English borrows words from many other languages -- and it borrowed 'proletariat' from French (where it first appeared in 1832). The question is -- by what path did it enter English? Was it through the writings of Karl Marx? Or was it first used elsewhere? The answer is: probably Marx.
Q: Hi Kel, We love your emails and your weekly session with Peta Credlin. It would be great to know the history/origin of this one: "Gangbusters." We find with spring and fertilised gardens growing madly we use this word a lot. Any information welcome. If you think this worthy of a mention we would love that. Thanks and great regards, Carol and David
A: This started in 1930s America as the slang term for those police teams that tackled organised crime. Because of the energy these police used in pursuing the gangs, later (mid 1950s) the word came to mean: 'full of vigour, speed, or energy; outstanding; (hence) that performs exceptionally well, highly successful.' Which is what you can see in your garden!
Q: Hi Kel, The current lack of leadership on a federal level with respect to responding to anti-semitism has been disturbing, as you have pointed out. With such weakness on display, could you please explain the origin of the term ‘mealy-mouthed?’ Cheers, Adam
A: 'Mealy mouthed' comes from the image of someone speaking with their mouth full of 'meal' (crushed grain). It would be like trying to speak with a mouth full of biscuit -- nothing comes out clearly. Although today we tend to use it to mean that it is the intention of the 'mealy mouthed' that nothing they say will be clear or decisive.
Q: Kel, Can you please put me out of my misery? I hear many journalists, and many others too, describing “multiple persons”, “multiple teams”, “multiple animals” and on it goes. Is it not more correct to say (or write) “multiple numbers of persons” etc? Thanks and kind regards, Michael
A: As far as I can see, the core notion of 'multiple' is 'a multitude; a great number.' If that's correct, the concept of 'number' is already built into the word 'multiple.' So, to use your example, 'multiple teams' means 'a multitude of teams' or 'a great number of teams. So, I think that's okay as it is.
Q: Hi Kel, Thanks for your work. Have you analyzed the word ”narrative”. I read that it means.
“a spoken or written account of connected events; a story”. It is usually used as a literary term, but can also be used as a “representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values.” It does not literally imply a representation of reality, i.e. the truth. However, philosophies such as postmodernism that claim that we have no way of knowing reality, not even that it exists, claim that the only “truth” we can know is the narrative of our culture or subculture. Consequently I think it is increasingly (and erroneously?) being used as if it caried the weight of a “truth”. But it’s an unchalengable “truth” because it’s “our truth” that may not be “your truth” because there is no objective: The truth. Any thoughts? John
A: 'Narrative' simply means 'story.' But in structuralist (and post-structuralist) literary theory it is used to mean something 'understanding' (the controlling understanding behind a work of literature). This use of the word now has a wider application in the philosophy of relativism -- which says that any understanding of the world is a fictional construction. They are wrong. Reality and common sense are real and reliable.
Q: Hi Kel, My comment relates to pronunciation. I recently heard one of the experts on Antiques Roadshow (Will Farmer who you would think would have been well educated) say Innovative in the context “he was quite innovative” but he pronounced it In-ov-u-tiv.
I couldn’t believe my ears. How could a well educated young man have such poor pronunciation? Has he been failed by the British education system. Can you please try to explain how a word like innovative inno-vative (as in native) and from the word innovate can be pronounced as In-ov-u(as in up)tiv. Cheers, Chris
A: The Oxford English Dictionary lists both pronunciations as acceptable and common in English --- stressing wither the first syllable (IN-ovative) or the third syllable (inoVATive). The second is slightly more common, but both are regarded as correct.
Q: Re: anti-Semitism -- Jews are hated, not because they are bad, but because they persist in reminding us (the world), of what it means to be good. Anti Semitism is nothing less than a visceral reaction to the cry of a guilty conscience. Bob
A: I think the same can be said for the more subtle hatred of Christianity that often turns up in political discourse or in the media.
Q: Hi Kel, Did Suella Braverman make up "Tofu-eating wokerati" or has it been around for a while? I like the term and I like Suella. Kind Regards, Ian
A: "wokerati" (the collective noun for people of a woke disposition) has been around since January 2021 (constructed along the lines of words such as 'literati'). But "tofu eating' seems to be Suella's own addition.
Q: Re: Islamophobia -- Well said Kel. During this conflict, there seems to be a need amongst some of our politicians to argue both sides of the argument, as if there is some moral equivalence between those who peacefully protest and those who say or do provocative things.
Yet when it comes to any other racial or ethnic hatred, you don’t see this happen. Adam
A: This is why words matter. Words must be used honestly, or society pays the price.
Q: Where does the word mooch come from? Margaret.
A: 'Mooch' means ' To loaf, to loiter aimlessly,' It was a great favourite of C. J. Dennis, who used it in The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke. It is surprisingly old -- coming into English back in the days when Ango-Norman French words were entering the English language (thanks to William the Conqueror). The meaning changed a bit over the centuries, but that's the source.
Q: I’m thinking the word “existential "is being misused and overused particularly by some politicians. Could you confirm it’s correct meaning please. David
A: The word is recorded from 1656 and means 'of or relating to existence'. Anything that does not threaten existence is not existential. But my expectations remain low that politicians will ever understand this!
Q: Congratulations on your explanation of Islamophobia today, Kel. This should be circulated to schools instead of the extremely worrying ‘schools strike for Palestine’ suggestion which I read about yesterday and which I hope doesn’t happen. Kathy.
A: Children need to be in school learning, not used as publicity weapons for the Hamas war criminals.
Q: "Something written in Denmark". I think Shakespeare said it but he never went there so how did he know? Thanks, Kel, love your work. Wish I had a brain like yours. Carol
A: The quote you're thinking of is 'something is rotten in the state of Denmark'. It's a line in "Hamlet" and refers to the events of the play.