mugI like to discover new words when I am reading. It doesn’t matter if it is a poem, newspaper article, novel or blog post. My wife has gotten me word-a-day calendars and I have subscribed to email lists that send you one each day. But I do prefer to stumble upon them in the context of my reading.

I (infrequently) blog about word origins, phrases and even the origins of names of bands or teams etc. on my Why Name It That? blog.

I do drop by the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day site pretty regularly. I’m not looking for words to use for Words With Friends or to help me solve crossword puzzles, just looking for that interesting word   You can even subscribe to a podcast version and listen.

Today’s word was forswear   \for-SWAIR\   verb  1. : to make a liar of (oneself) under or as if under oath  2. a : to reject, deny, or renounce under oath b : to renounce earnestly.

For my blog, I usually post something when I either stumble upon an interesting origin or comes across a word or phrase that I wonder about its origin.

For example, in my reading I saw the sentence: “and his own theory is not even wrong.”  I looked that one up and discovered that “not even wrong” is used to describe any argument that purports to be scientific but fails at some fundamental level. The phrase is often used to describe pseudoscience or bad science, and is considered derogatory. The phrase is generally attributed to theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who was known for his colorful objections to incorrect or sloppy thinking. The origin story is supposed to be that a friend showed Pauli the paper of a young physicist which he suspected was not of great value but on which he wanted Pauli’s views. Pauli remarked sadly, “It is not even wrong.” A variation is “It is not only not right, it is not even wrong.”

Last month, I was reading about the celebrity iPhone photo hacks of nude photos and the word paparazzi was used. I’ve heard it many time before and most people know it means those annoying celebrity photographers that often overstep the boundaries of good taste and privacy. But where did the word come from?

As with many words, there are multiple etymologies. The word “paparazzi” as we use it now is an eponym, meaning it is taken from a name. In the 1960 film La dolce vita (directed by Federico Fellini) there is a news photographer named Paparazzo. Fellini took the name from an Italian dialect word that describes the annoying noise of a buzzing mosquito. But there’s more to the origin…

There are also origin stories that might tie together the unlikely rock threesome of The Lovin’ Spoonful, 10 CC and Pearl Jam. It’s not their styles of music. Read and discover…

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