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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, December 3, 2010

Word of the week: plastic

As we give our credit and debit cards a workout in the next few weeks, it's hard to imagine using the noun “plastic” as when it first appeared in English in 1598, in an art treatise: “Carving is nothing else but a painful imitation of plastic,”. Back then it meant the art of modelling in clay or wax, a sense of which we still see a hint in “plastic surgery”. Derived from a Greek word meaning “moulding”, it was very handy when the highly mouldable substance we now know as plastic was invented in the early 20th century.

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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.