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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, October 1, 2010

Word of the week: quarry

Moose, deer, bear – for those gearing up for the hunting season, they can all be summed up by one word: quarry. After medieval hunters had killed their deer, they would place its heart and liver on a piece of its hide and let the dogs eat it as a reward (I hope you're not eating breakfast as you read this). The French word for an animal's hide was cuirée, which in turn came from the Latin word corium (skin). In English this became “quarry”, which, by the 1600s, came to designate the whole animal – or anything else – being pursued.
This has nothing to do with the stone quarry, which comes ultimately from the Latin quadrum (square) since stone is cut into square pieces.

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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.