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Friday, December 17, 2010

Word of the week: mall

Heading to the mall these days may seem like an endurance sport, and “mall” does have its origin in sports. A trendy game of the 1600s was “pall mall”, involving balls – Italian palla – being whacked by mallets – Italian maglio, from the Latin malleus (hammer). The very long alley in which this was played came to be known as the “mall”. After the game fell out of favour, malls – often roofed over to protect from the English climate – became a fashionable place to promenade. In the 1950s, the word seemed appropriate for the long covered walkway down the middle of the new enclosed shopping centres, and thus for the whole complex.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    An "aha" moment! The Romanian word "mai" (but not the homophone name of the month of May) means "hammer", coming from that Latin "malleus".

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

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.