Sunday, April 6, 2014

Language Resource: European Word Translator

The European Word Translator is a mash-up using Google Translate, and a very creative one! You type a word into the "Translate it!" box, and then the translations show up on the map for the language of each country. If you're not up on your geography, you can hover over each word to see what language it is.

Writing Humor: The Fall of the Onomatopoeian Empire

Onomatopoeia is a great writing technique but, as you can see in this delightful cartoon by Scott Hillbrun, it is no way to defend an empire!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Word from Mythology: Herculean

Today's word from mythology is "Herculean," which means something that requires a mighty effort or great strength. A Herculean task is a task that would require the strength of the great hero Hercules, or Heracles, as the Greeks called him; Hercules is his Roman name. You can read about the famous Labors of Hercules at Wikipedia.

The image below shows Hercules capturing the Cerberus, the three-headed hound of hell, which was the last of the twelve labors:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Word from Mythology: Friday

Today's word from mythology is Friday, is from the name of the Germanic goddess of married love, Frigg, wife of Odin. The Old English form of the word is frigedaeg, Frigga's day.

The Latin name for the day is dies Veneris, the day of Venus, goddess of love (compare venerdì in Italian, vendredi in French, and viernes in Spanish).

The image below shows Frigg riding a chariot pulled by rams in an illustration by Arthur Rackham for Richard Wagner's Die Walküre.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dictionary: Online Etymology Dictionary

As you already know, I am fascinated by word origins, and one of my favorite word origin references online is the Online Etymology Dictionary at

Google has also recently added an etymology look-up feature; just type the word you are interested in into the Google search window and add the word "etymology" to learn about the word's origin. For example, here's the Google result for porcupine obtained by typing "porcupine etymology" into the search box: