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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, July 1, 2011


Happy Canada Day! Wave those Maple Leaf flags about! Where does the name of our national tree come from? In Old English, the tree was called a mapuldur. It and the apple tree (apuldur) were the only trees whose name ended in -dur. The Anglo-Saxons figured that if an apuldur was a tree producing apples, then -dur must mean “tree”, and, undeterred by the fact that a maple tree does not produce mapples, proceeded to consider the -dur ending redundant and lopped it off. Some sort of tribal memory of this reasoning may still survive in England. I once saw in an Oxford deli a notice advertising “Canadian-style carrot cake”. Intrigued, I asked what made it Canadian, to which the server replied, “The Canadian woman who makes the cake puts some special Canadian ingredient in it...maple nuts, I think”!

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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.