(703) 875-7630
Dictyon Language Services


Filed under: "Blog"


Cloud-cuckoo-land: From Aristophanes to Margaret Thatcher and Radiohead

Cloud-cuckoo-land: From Aristophanes to Margaret Thatcher and Radiohead

"The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation… Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land." (Margaret Tatcher, 1987) In Aristophanes' 5th century B.C. comedy Birds, Peisthetaerus (a human whose name can be roughly translated as "Trustyfriend" or "Mr. Trusting") and his friend, Euelpides ("Goodhope" or […]


Tulips, Turbans and Taliban

Tulips, Turbans and Taliban

Tulips are botanically related to lilies, but got their name from their resemblance to turbans (from Turk. tülbent "turban," also "gauze, muslin," from Persian dulband "turban"). Tulips have three petals and three sepals which are often termed tepals because they are nearly identical. They were introduced from Turkey to Europe, in the 16th century and […]


Life is a Bowl of Cherries-es

Life is a Bowl of Cherries-es

Like 'pea', 'cherry' was formed on the erroneous assumption that a final-s sound signals a plural. This faulty singular 'back formed' from Anglo-French 'cherise' or 'cirice', from Latin 'cerasus', from Greek 'kerasos'. Two more words that have been mistakenly taken as plurals are 'kudos' and 'biceps'. The former comes from Greek 'κύδος' (praise, glory), and […]


They Look Like Two Peases in a Pod

They Look Like Two Peases in a Pod

The original singular for the word "pea" was "pease" (Middle English plural: "pesen"). "Pease" was used as both singular and collective, just like words for grains (wheat, corn, barley) or animals (sheep, deer, swine, buffalo, fish, trout, etc.). The sound on the end was reanalyzed as a plural 's' marker and, at the end of […]


Mr. Portokalos, do you like noranges?

Mr. Portokalos, do you like noranges?

The original word for orange was ‘norange’ (fr. Arabic naranj<Persian narang<Sanskrit naranga-s), but lost its initial 'n' probably by confusion with the indefinite French article ('une norange'). The first Persian varieties of this popular fruit were imported to Italy in 11c. and were bitter. The sweet variety that we all know today was introduced to […]