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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, November 19, 2010

A cheery thought

Cheers! The Beaujolais nouveau has just been released. “Cheer” has its origins in an ancient Greek word for “head”, kara, which, by the time the Normans arrived in England, had become chere and meant the face or facial expression. Back then, it could be either a sad or happy expression, or even the emotion revealed by the expression. Gradually the association with happiness won out; so it was no longer possible to have a “sorry cheer”. By the 1700s a “cheer” was a shout of encouragement. The drinking toast did not crop up until the early 20th century.

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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.