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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, February 3, 2012


Have you got your fingers crossed that you'll win your office Super Bowl pool this Sunday? You may be thinking that this type of pool is the same as the one you swim in (after all, it's like a big container that stuff is put in), but in fact it's a totally different word. The gambling pool comes from the French word poule (chicken). One of its slang meanings was "plunder" -- images of soldiers carting off chickens after sacking a village spring to mind. This came to mean the collective stakes in a card game that the winner takes like the victor's spoils of war. Then all kinds of groupings came to be known as “pools”: for gambling, as in office pools, and not for gambling, as in car pools, although sometimes those might be a gamble, depending on the drivers involved!

1 comment:

  1. Then "pooling our resources" is throwing them in the gambling pot?


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.