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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, May 25, 2012


The flowers that bloom in the spring lighten the hearts of many, but only clog up the nasal passages of others. The word “allergy” was coined in 1906 from the Greek word, allos (different) and the end of the word “energy”. But surely people had allergies before then? Indeed they did. An Italian doctor of the mid-1500s, observing the sneezing and itching suffered by a patient exposed to roses, dubbed the affliction “rose fever”. But in the 1820s we begin to see references to “hay asthma” or “hay fever”, the latter term becoming established when a physician in the mid-1800s fingered grass and other pollens as the culprit. He advised his patients to avoid it by spending the summer on a yacht. Try getting your health plan to cover that!
For the fascinating history of the word "sneeze", click here.

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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.