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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 16, 2011

Why not hopwelsh?

Children are back in the schoolyards. Do they still play hopscotch, or has some Wii version taken over? You might think that there's some cute story about Scotch whisky involved with hopscotch, but in fact, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Scots. Back in the 1400s, the word "skoch" turned up in English meaning "cut a line in" or "make a gash in". Recipes recommended that fish to be grilled should be "skoched" first (today we would say "scored"). If you think of what a piece of steak that has been scored with a knife looks like, you can see the resemblance to a hopscotch drawing on a sidewalk. "Hopscotch" means "hop over the lines", more or less. The earliest references to the game, from 1688 (when they definitely didn't have a Wii version) called it "hop scotches", in fact.

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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.