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.

Follow by email

Search This Blog

Friday, June 14, 2013


In June many students receive their diploma, a word ultimately derived from a Greek word meaning “doubling”, which was used for a paper folded in half. By the time it came into English in the 1600s, it was being used for official documents conferring a privilege. Diplomats are called that because originally they had one of these “diplomas” conferring official status on them. But very soon thereafter, “diploma” came to mean a document conferring a degree.


  1. Hello,

    I'm surprised. I thought important papers used to be scrolled, rather than folded.

  2. And what about degree??? wich is very far of the french meaning!
    Patrick, Martine's husband and Wordlady fan...

    1. Bonjour Patrick! Degree will be coming up in a future Wordlady.


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.