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The AnswerBank Articles

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Every time it rains, it rains pennies from heaven

Q. Nice thought, but where does the phrase originate A. Whether or not the phrase originated there, it was certainly popularised by the film Pennies from Heaven (1936), and in particular by the01:00 Sat 05th Jan 2002


Q. Where does the word Europe come from A. The derivation of the word is as obscure as the boundaries of Europe are ill defined. However, there are a number of theories as to how it came about. Q.01:00 Sat 29th Dec 2001

Happy New Year!

We'll all hear this a few times over the next couple of weeks, and new year is the oldest of all human festivals - though it is odd that we in Europe mark the beginning of the year on 1 January,01:00 Thu 27th Dec 2001

Geese with Stewed Prunes

Q. Sounds unusual. Surely not a culinary combination A. Could be. Roast goose with stewed prunes would probably work very well. However, in this context it has more to do with the bishops of01:00 Wed 26th Dec 2001

The car's the star

Q. First of all, why are cars called cars A. The term 'car' today refers almost exclusively to those four-wheeled metal things with an internal combustion engine that we all rely on so much. There01:00 Sun 23rd Dec 2001

Christmas around Europe

Q. How do you say Merry Christmas in the various countries of the EU A. Austria: Froliche Weihnachten Belgium: Zalig Kerstfeest (Flemish); Joyeux No l (French) Denmark: Gl delig Jul (Danish);01:00 Sat 22nd Dec 2001

The gee-gees: Horses in phrases and sayings

It's only in the last 70 years or so that the horse hasn't been the principal form of locomotion, both for human transport and the movement of goods. So it's not surprising that horses feature01:00 Sat 22nd Dec 2001

British or Ukonian : Who are we

Q. Ukonian A. A term suggested by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright to describe the inhabitants of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: that's you an me (unless, of01:00 Fri 14th Dec 2001

You'll die laughing: How the words comedy and cemetery are related

Q. Surely not A. Surely so. Both words are derived from the Greeks verbs koimao 'I lull to sleep' and keimai, meaning 'I lie down'. This unlikely pairing arises from the fact that in Ancient Greece01:00 Thu 13th Dec 2001

To catalogue or to catalog, that is the question: US vs British spelling

Q. Why do US and British English use different spelling conventions A. British spelling became codified in the late 18th century, largely through the influence of publications such as Samuel01:00 Thu 13th Dec 2001

Why use many words when a polysyllabic monster will do: Sesquipedalian

Q. Sounds like some kind of dinosaur A. Well, it's not. A sesquipedalian word is a cumbersome and pedantic word; sesquipedalian orators are those inclined to use such. The word is always used with01:00 Tue 04th Dec 2001

The stone as roll not heap up not foam: English as She Is Spoke

Q. What A. English as She Is Spoke. The worst - or best, depending on how you look at it - phrasebook in history. Q. What's it all about A. This little gem derives from one Pedro Carolino's Guide01:00 Tue 04th Dec 2001

Delia's Delight

Q. So Delia's in the dictionary now A. Indeed. The new edition of the Collins English Dictionary has entered the noun Delia as a word in its own right. She's that famous - or ubiquitous. Case in01:00 Tue 04th Dec 2001

Mind those Ps and Qs

Q. What does 'mind your Ps and Qs' mean A. It means 'to be careful'. Q. How so A. There's no definitive answer to that, as a number of theories have been put forward as to how the phrase came01:00 Fri 30th Nov 2001

Gotta write a classic, Gonna do it an attic: Rhyme

It's a popular misconception that poetry has to rhyme - that is rhyme in the most obvious sense that the ends of lines have to have repeated sounds, known logically enough as 'end rhyme'. Which is01:00 Mon 26th Nov 2001

AQI: Upspeak

You would have had to have been a hermit for the last decade or more not to have noticed the progressive creep in the incidence of tonal rise at the end of a statement. Q. Once again in English A.01:00 Mon 26th Nov 2001

Frankly speaking

Q. Such a short word, so many meanings A. Indeed. From Ol' Blue Eyes to the post, this single-syllable has more meanings than almost any other in the English language. Q. And the list A. Here01:00 Sun 25th Nov 2001

Joseph Heller and Catch-22

Q. 'It's a Catch-22 situation', is a term we hear trotted out all the time. What's the dictionary definition A. According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary it is 'a condition or consequence that01:00 Sat 24th Nov 2001

The names of the US states

When, on 4 July 1776, the 13 British colonies in North America declared their independence, the United States of America was born. As the continent was opened up and other European-administered lands01:00 Thu 22nd Nov 2001

Whistling Dixie: The land of the Dix

Q. Whistling Dixie A. The phrase 'to whistle Dixie' means to engage in unrealistic, hopeful fantasising. The idiom alludes to the song 'Dixie' - the unofficial national anthem of the Confederate01:00 Sun 18th Nov 2001

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