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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 24, 2012

Best Actress in a supporting gown

This Sunday is the Academy Awards. Who will be best actor/actress? Which film will be the best picture? Who cares? We know what people are really interested in: the gowns.

In Late Latin, the word gunna meant "fur", and by the 8th century this word was being used to mean a fur garment that elderly or sick monks were allowed to wear over their habits (it being pretty darn nippy getting up in the middle of the night in those chilly monasteries to sing one of the offices of the day). This was borrowed into Old French as goune, a word that has completely died out in French but survived in English after being borrowed in the 1300s. Originally it meant any flowing garment worn by either sex. This has survived in the scholar's gown worn as part of academic dress. Until the 18th century, "gown" was the ordinary name for a woman's garment, but it was then superseded by "dress", leaving "gown" to be used only for fancy dresses.

If you're interested in movies, check out this great film blog: http://roomoverthegarage.wordpress.com/

Copyright Katherine Barber 2012

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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.