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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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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, Franz!

January 31 is Franz Schubert's birthday, so what better day for a music-themed post.
The word "music" itself comes ultimately from the Muses, the ancient Greek goddesses of the arts who hung out with the über arts god, Apollo. This came into English via Latin and French, which meant the word wasn't available to the Anglo-Saxons. Their word for "music" was gliw, which has given us the word "glee". Already by the 1200s, "glee" was being used as a synonym for "mirth", but, for all you avid fans of that TV show, Glee does not mean "happiness" in this context. "Glees" were a specific type of part song in the 1600s, and "glee clubs" grew up in the early 1800s. All the same, I find it quite delightful that a word meaning "music" ended up meaning "happiness".

To make you gleeful, and as a homage to Schubert, please enjoy this amazing ballet, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, set to the final movement of his Great C Major Symphony, choreographed by William Forsythe, full of high-energy virtuosity and featuring the world's coolest tutus. Performed here by Claire-Marie Osta, Delphine Baey, Eleonora Abbagnato, Hervé Moreau and Nicolas Noel of the Paris Opera Ballet (if you like ballet, check out my other blog, www.toursenlair.blogspot.com).

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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.