Art & History, Language & Literature

What is a Malapropism?

Tina Price-Johnson

A Paralegal and Litigation Assistant by day, and Freelance Writer/Poet by night and weekend, Tina loves history, social studies and biographies, and enjoys writing about almost anything.She lives in London and travels in the UK and abroad whenever she can, and can usually be found wandering around crumbling ruins.

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You may not have had the term ‘malapropism’, but I am sure you know what a malapropism is when you hear it!  It is when you get one word mixed up for another and as a result change the meaning of a sentence completely.  

For example you might mean to say to your friend, “I’m bored, let’s go watch telly”, but what you actually say is, “I’m bored, let’s go eat telly”. 🙂 

What is a malapropism, and why does it have such a funny name?

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Language & Literature

I am Dandelion, Hear Me Roar – The Origin of Dandelion

Millie

Millie is a British writer and translator living and working in Greece. She writes about etymology on Jump! Mag and on Glossologics, and shares her children’s stories on Kidscapers.

Latest posts by Millie (see all)

This little flower gets a raw deal, often regarded as a weed to be dug up, but it is actually quite pretty, with its bright yellow colour and distinctive leaves. Even the etymology of its name is pretty. Millie explains the origin of dandelion, and how people in other countries refer to this cheery flower.  

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Language & Literature

Where Does the Word Candidate Come From?

Millie

Millie is a British writer and translator living and working in Greece. She writes about etymology on Jump! Mag and on Glossologics, and shares her children’s stories on Kidscapers.

Latest posts by Millie (see all)

Today is election day in UK, when the citizens of the country choose their new government. You can read all about how the elections work here. You wouldn’t think that dress codes of ancient Rome would affect the elections of today, but they do! Millie Slavidou explains.

Today is a good day to think about the word ‘candidate’. I rather like the etymology of this one.

It comes from Latin candidus, which is the past participle* of candidare, which meant ‘to make white, to make bright’.

Not because of whitewashing whatever the candidates might have said or done! It was because in ancient Rome candidates who wanted to be elected either to the Senate or any other office wore white robes.

If we take it one step further back, to a root meaning ‘white, shining’, we find that ‘candle’ is a cognate.**

 

*Past Particle

The past particle is the past form of the verb that can also be used as an adjective, like “a fallen tree”. In the case above, the adjective is like saying ‘whitened’ in English. Other examples of past particles are:

verb: bite
past particle: bitten
example: a bitten apple

verb: choose
past particle: chosen
example: aa chosen present

verb: crash
past particle: crashed
example: a crashed bicycle

 

**Cognates

A cognate is a distant relative, a word ultimately from the same root. Like a third cousin. Here are some examples of cognates.

 

14126405243_c179f6f9b8_qBook is related to beech. Well, actually, book means beech! Both come from Germanic word meaning beech tree, Buche.

Germanic runes were originally inscribed on tablets made of beech wood. Modern German for book is Buch!

 

2400500463_67988839f0_qWOOL and FLANNEL are distant cognates.  Today, fashion stores often describe plaid shirts as ‘flannel’, but it is actually a soft woven fabric, originally made of wool, but now often cotton or synthetic. You might have a flannel pyjamas, which are lovely and cosy in the winter!
The word wool is from a Proto Indo European root *wele meaning ‘wool’.
 In Welsh, the word gwlanen, means ‘wool’ and is from the same root. The word flannel comes from the woollen vests that were made, presumably by Welsh traders from Welsh sheep –  Gwlanen became fwlanen, and then flannel. So wool and flannel are distant cousins!

 

5556105449_ebe9616b47_q 14322245779_00c3428d73_qToday’s featured image is Marasmiellus candidus, a type of mushroom. You will often find the word ‘candidus’ used in botany or biology to describe something that is white, such as crocus candidus or the white woodpecker Melanerpes Candidus. There is even a white monkey called Propithecus candidus. 

Crocus Image

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Language & Literature

How Did the Penguin Get its Name?

Millie

Millie is a British writer and translator living and working in Greece. She writes about etymology on Jump! Mag and on Glossologics, and shares her children’s stories on Kidscapers.

Latest posts by Millie (see all)

These days, we all know what a penguin looks like. Even if you haven’t seen a real, live penguin, I’m sure you have seen pictures, perhaps watched them in a film. It seems strange to think that people in Europe had no idea they existed for so many centuries! Perhaps you have wondered about that part of history.

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Language & Literature

Is Black Really White?

black and white

Millie

Millie is a British writer and translator living and working in Greece. She writes about etymology on Jump! Mag and on Glossologics, and shares her children’s stories on Kidscapers.

Latest posts by Millie (see all)

Science will tell you that black is not a colour, rather it is the absence of colour or the fact that there is no colour there. I expect that makes you think of white, rather than black!
And that’s the interesting thing about the word black: it was nearly white. And in fact in several other languages, the same root did develop to mean white.

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