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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Playing hooky

School has just started, but some students will already be playing hooky or, to put it more formally, being truant. “Truant” comes from a Celtic word meaning “wretched” (probably something the kids hanging out at the mall aren't). When the word was first used in English, it was a term of abuse for a beggar thought to be sufficiently able-bodied, but too lazy, to make an honest living instead of panhandling. The first person so designated in English was that layabout Saint Francis of Assisi! “Truant” started being applied to children skipping school as early as the 1400s.

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.