Posted in March 2012


I love this word. I know I say that a lot in these posts. But come on, it’s flummoxed. How can you not love saying this word? I said it the other day at work, and couldn’t help smiling to myself afterwards. Very simply, to be flummoxed is to be confused or perplexed. But why … Continue reading


Okay, I’ll just come clean from the start and say it: until I looked it up tonight, I thought milquetoast was spelled “milk toast”. Clearly I didn’t know that the word came from the 1930’s comic strip, The Timid Soul, by H. T. Webster. Casper Milquetoast was a timid, unassertive man. The character’s name is a deliberate … Continue reading


Oh, the misunderstood fishwife. She gets such a bad rap. Having become used to hearing this as a term to refer to a loud or shrewish woman, I was delighted to come across it in a different usage. While reading “The Paris Wife” by Paula McClain, I was struck by this sentence, “Sometimes he’d make … Continue reading


I used to think harbinger meant something that foretold an evil or devastating event. Maybe it’s because I generally heard it in the phrase “harbinger of doom”.  Or my all time favorite, “hard-hearted harbinger of haggis”, as said by Mike Myers as beat poet, Charlie, reciting his poem “Harriet” in the film “So I Married … Continue reading

Minced Oath

While watching Midsomer Murders, and learning that the murder weapon was a bodkin, I became interested in the phrase “odd bodkin”.  And while researching that, I came across an even more interesting term, minced oath. While not a very eloquent phrase, it’s an amusing one (at least to me). It’s a way of swearing, without … Continue reading


Zugzwang. Come on, say it. You know you want to. Zugzwang. Of course it’s German. But, have you a clue what it means? Go on, guess. Feel like I’m playing games with you? I am. Because zugzwang is a term generally used in chess. It describes a situation where a player has to make a … Continue reading


With the popularity of Downtown Abbey, it’s not surprising to have the term dowager come up in conversation. What is surprising is that it was my daughter who suggested it for this blog. She’s recently become hooked on Downtown herself, and wrote a great post which you can read here. The definition of dowager is: a … Continue reading