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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, January 2, 2015

12 Days of Wordlady: Lords a-leaping

The Anglo-Saxons, living as they did in pre-glutenophobic times, were apparently obsessed with bread (or hláf as it was known back then, the ancestor of "loaf").

We have already seen that "dairy" came from a word meaning "kneader" and that "lady" came from a compound meaning "bread kneader" (hláfdige). 

The origin of "lord" was hláfweard (bread keeper). As usual, the women were doing all the work. Who was the hláfweard / lord (we've obviously lost a few consonants along the way) keeping his bread for (or from)? Why, the voracious servants, of course, known in Old English as hláf-ǽta, literally a ‘bread-eater’. This word has not survived.

I don't have ten lords a-leaping for you, but here's (quelle surprise!) one ballet dancer a-leaping, pretty darn nicely (and turning too): Josua Hoffalt of Paris Opera Ballet:


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For why I'm not the Word Wench:

For why milkmaids work in a dairy rather than a milkery:

For what swans have to do with singing, click here: 

Why we don't say "gooses" and "gooselings: 

For why we don't say "fiveth", "fiveteen", and "fivety", click here: 

For why it was OK to call the Virgin Mary a "bird", click here: 

For what French hens have to do with syphilis, click here: 

For turtle-doves, click here: http://katherinebarber.blogspot.ca/2014/12/12-days-of-wordlady-turtle-doves.html

For what partridges have to do with farting, 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.