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Strictly speaking | BOOKANEER

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Bookaneer looks like a modern coinage – a word invented to make reading more attractive to small children by associating it with pirates. Indeed, an episode of the popular TV show for young learners, Sesame Street, has Elmo joining the ...

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Strictly speaking | VAPE

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This curious word, abbreviated from vaporise, has had a short life in science fiction, as a verb meaning “to vaporise by means of a weapon” and more generally “to destroy completely”. Either meaning would apply in the citation of the ...

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Strictly speaking | Swirling

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Swirling means having a partner of a different race. The term has been around since the early 2000s, according to urbandictionary.com, and has been brought to more prominence recently by Christelyn Karazin, who has written a book about it, and ...

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Strictly speaking | LIQUID

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For the physicist, liquid is the state of matter between solid and gaseous, and for nonphysicists it’s probably something to wet the whistle on a dry day. But it has long been attached to other concepts in several related verbs: ...

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MAMIL

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The growth in popularity of cycling as a sport, and a means of commuting, has resulted in the evolution of a new species: the mamil (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra). The origin of the term is disputed. Wikipedia will inform you ...

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EVERGREEN(ING)

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The evergreen pine is one of the proverbial “friends of winter” in China and Japan, and still a symbol of Christmas celebrations in the southern hemisphere. In German tradition, the persistently green needles of evergreen trees are symbolic of fidelity ...

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bagel

Bagelling

In this year’s Australian Open, Andy Murray was described by commentators as bageling his semi-final opponent, before being bageled himself in the final. This is not a new way of abusing your opponents by hurling bread at them. Rather, it ...

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scofflaw

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The birthdate of the word scofflaw (one who flouts laws that are minor and unenforceable) is known much more exactly than most: January 15, 1924. It was the winning entry, out of more than 25,000 in a competition held in ...

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Gothic values

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The word Gothic (in Latin “gothicus”) would have struck terror into the hearts of 5th-century Romans, with its dark connotations of barbarians pouring out of Germanic wilderness to destroy their civilisation. Centuries later, Gothic seems to have shaken off its ...

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anecdata and anecdota

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Both anecdata and anecdota are cousins of anecdote, a 17th-century loanword from French that goes back to the Greek word anecdoton, meaning “something unpublished”. The earliest English citations have it in the plural form anecdota and glossed as “secret history/histories” ...

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