Welcome to the Wordlady blog!

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.
You can also order my best-selling books, Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to do With Pigs and Only in Canada You Say. Fun and informative!


Subscribe! Fun facts about English delivered weekly right to your inbox. IT'S FREE! Fill in your email address below.
Privacy policy: we will not sell, rent, or give your name or address to anyone. You can unsubscribe at any point.

Search This Blog

Friday, October 29, 2010


Why do some people pronounce the first part of "Halloween" like the word "hollow"?

In Old English, the word we know today as "holy" was halig, pronounced HALLY. In the Middle Ages, the pronunciation started to shift from HALLY to HOLLY. We see this phenomenon in the word "holiday" (literally a "holy day"), where the original Old English pronunciation survives in the family name "Halliday", originally given to people born on a holy day. 

Subsequently HOLLY shifted even further to HOLEY. But in the word "hallow" (originally meaning "saint"), the final shift to HOLE never happened, leaving us with the two older pronunciations: HALLOW and HOLLOW.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
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.