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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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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Not like caucus

I was just reading my Toronto Star, ever a rich source of spelling mistakes, and noticed a headline "Rowdy and raucus". What they meant was "raucous", but when I did a search on google for the misspelling, I was surprised to find almost half a million instances, so the Star  headline editors are not alone. The Latin etymon (that's a fancy - but much shorter - word meaning "word from which another word is derived") of "raucous" is in fact raucus, meaning "harsh or hoarse", and this is indeed the meaning that "raucous" had when it was first borrowed into English in the 1600s (and is still the sense of the French word rauque). The "boisterous, noisy; rowdy, disorderly, uproarious" sense is really quite recent, dating from the mid-1800s.
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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.