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Sally Prue's word blog.
This blog is for everyone who uses words.
The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.
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There are also harlequin bugs, dahlias and quail. And ducks. And Volkswagens.
As if that wasn't enough choice, any clown or buffoon can be called Harlequin.
And you never have to go far to find one of those.
Spot the Frippet: Harlequin. This word comes from the Old French Herlequin, from Hellequin, who was the leader of a band of demon horsemen. It might also be something to do with the Middle English Herle King, who is often called by his other name of Woden.
There's also an astonishing connection, claimed by some, with the erlking, the child-killing elf of legend, poem, and song.
A midaxi is a type of skirt. In fact, it's a length of skirt.
You can probably guess the rest, but just in case you've never got into skirts, a midi skirt has a hem that ends mid-calf, that is, at the widest part of the lower leg. A maxi skirt goes down to cover the ankles. The midaxi hem sits in between, a little way above the ankle.
Given that people come in different heights, a skirt can't be guaranteed to be a midaxi. On tall people it might be a midi, and on short people it will be a maxi.
If it's a maxi then it is usually possible to turn the hem up to make it shorter, but ninety nine per cent of people will a) take or send it back; b) wear it as it is; or c) leave it hanging in the wardrobe until maxis come back into fashion.
Very few people really care that much.
Sunday Rest: midaxi. This horrible word is made up, obviously, of mid- and maxi-. Mid- has been in use in English since before the Norman Conquest, but maxi-, a short form of the Latin word maximum, which means greatest, has only been around since the 1900s.
Robert Browning is a famous and established Victorian poet, the romantic lover of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But it didn't start like that.
He was born in South London, the son of a musically gifted mother and a Bank of England clerk. He hated school so much that he was allowed to give it up, and he went on to drop out of University, refuse to get a job, and live at home until his mid-thirties writing unsuccessful poetry. Then he eloped to Italy with a young woman of means, an invalid, thereby getting her disinherited (though she did retain enough money for them both to live quite comfortably). That woman was, of course, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. They were very happy together, and had a son.
It wasn't until after Elizabeth's death, and Browning's return to England, that he began to be properly successful. He wrote some long poems (The Ring and The Book has over 20,000 lines) and some short ones, and he developed a form of poetic monologue where a character speaks directly to the reader and gradually reveals a story - and himself.
Oscar Wilde said of Browning that He used poetry as a medium for writing prose, and you can see what Wilde means in My Last Duchess.
It's still terrific verse, though - and a murder mystery, too.
Here's just a bit of it. To read the whole creepy story (it's only a page or so) you can find it HERE.
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her?
Portraits can be spooky things, especially in fiction. But I think that The Last Duchess might have the edge of them all when it comes to sheer dawning horror.
Word To Use Today: wonder. The English have been wondering for a long time. The word is barely changed from its Old English form wundor.
Think of a mincing machine. Think of all the faff of getting the thing out of the cupboard and setting it up, then feeding the food into it, then dismantling it and cleaning it and putting it away again.
Then think about eating a piece of meat (or perhaps, for the vegans among us, chewing a liquorice stick).
Yes, they're marvellous thing, are molars.
The word has a neat derivation, too.
Word To Use Today: molar. This word comes from the Latin word molis, which means millstone.
There's another kind of molar, which is to do with chemistry and describes the amount of a substance in terms of its molecules - or, sometimes, in terms of the number of molecules in a measured amount of a solution. That word comes from another Latin word, mōlēs, which means mass.
If I knew what Google Analytics was, or did, and it said 2022 instead of 2023, and to sunset was actually a verb in British English, then I'd probably be a lot more bothered about it.
As it is, I hardly have to energy to sigh.
Word To Use Today: sunset. To sunset is a legal term in North America. It means to cause some programme, agency or whatnot to expire automatically, or to be terminated, after a certain period unless renewed by legislative action. The word sun was sunne in Old English. The word set comes from the Old English word settan, which is part of the verb sittan, to sit.
The letters of Aurebesh are based on designs by Joe Johnson used in the original Star Wars trilogy. This original design-work, called Star Wars 76, was developed into a font by Stephen Crane of West End Games.
Google Translate had an Aurebesh translation feature 2015 - 2016, and there are currently several translation facilities available via Google.
Word To Use Today: Aurebesh. This word is formed from the first two letters of the Aurebesh alphabet. In this it is exactly like the word, well, alphabet.