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The AnswerBank Articles

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The world's funniest joke - you gotta be kidding !

Dr Richard Wiseman, a University of Hertfordshire psychologist spent a year researching the definitive joke. But it's easy to see from the hugely unfunny results that this was a project back by the01:00 Thu 03rd Oct 2002

On the Oxford English Dictionary

John Simpson, Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, calls his life's work "the principal dictionary of record for the English language throughout the lifetime of all current users of the01:00 Thu 26th Sep 2002

On being separated by a common tongue

The film Gregory's Girl had subtitles when it was released in the USA. It was felt that broad Scottish accents might be too much for viewers in Poughkeepsie and Aurora. Those viewers might also have01:00 Wed 17th Jul 2002

Off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush

documanx asks 'Where does "on the QT" originate from and what does it mean ' Surprisingly, perhaps, the phrase has its origins in Victorian England. Surprising, because it has come to be01:00 Thu 13th Jun 2002

Getting down to the 'Nitty Gritty' and other nonsense.

PJB asked why the term 'nitty gritty' is taken by some as being offensive. The reason is that there are suggestions, almost certainly missplaced, that the phrase referred to the debris left in the01:00 Wed 15th May 2002

As like as chalk and cheese

jasona1976 asks: Where does the saying 'like chalk and cheese' come from The origins of the phrase can be traced back to Wiltshire, where they are quite proud of it. Farmers in the area around01:00 Wed 01st May 2002

Repent - or at least get someone else to do it for you: Sin-eaters

Q. Who, what and how A. A sin-eater was someone hired to absorb the sins of recently departed souls and thereby spare them the discomforts of Purgatory - or even Eternal Damnation, if they'd been01:00 Wed 24th Apr 2002

The Law of Averages

Q. So what is the difference between mean, median and mode A. Cast your mind back to elementary statistics in maths and you may recall that there were various different methods of calculating an01:00 Tue 23rd Apr 2002

Baise-moi veet: Risque French

Q. Baise-moi veet A. Kiss me kwik. Nothing to do with French at all, really, just a saucy seaside phrase. And let's face it, when it comes to sauciness, the Brits, especially the English, have01:00 Sat 20th Apr 2002

Drink hail!

Q. What exactly is wassailing A. It's not often used these days, and is often jocular when it is, but to wassail is to carouse. Q. How so A. The Norse ves heill (cognate with the Anglo-Saxon wes01:00 Fri 19th Apr 2002


Q. Lant A. Wee. Q. Wee A. More specifically, stale wee. Q. There is actually a specific word for stale wee A. Evidently. From the Anglo-Saxon hland, meaning, as the dictionary puts it: 'Urine,01:00 Wed 17th Apr 2002

'Zounds, sirrah. That's a minced oath, I'll warrant.'

Q. What the flip... A. Zounds - God's wounds - is a minced oath Q. A what A. A minced oath is an expletive that has been softened in order to minimise the offence it might cause. The minced bit01:00 Sat 13th Apr 2002

Habla you Spanglish

Q. Come again A. Do you speak Spanglish Spanglish is a combination of Spanish and English, rather like Franglais, which is a mixture of English and French. Q. Franglais As in the Miles Kingston01:00 Wed 10th Apr 2002


Q. So what is a toad-eater A. Originating in the 17th century, a toad-eater was a mountebank's assistant. Q. Mountebank A. An itinerant vendor of medicines. The name comes from the Italian monta01:00 Tue 09th Apr 2002

Why do we 'touch wood' for luck

Q. Well, why do we A. The expression - or something similar - is used by many people around the world, usually accompanied by the touching of a wooden item, in order to ward off bad karma or appeal01:00 Fri 05th Apr 2002


Q. So, why are birdwatchers called twitchers A. It's an appellation that appeared some time around the middle of the last century, though, typically, the source is obscure. The best guess is that a01:00 Fri 05th Apr 2002

On the treadmill

Q. What was the treadmill A. It was a piece of prison hardware designed as a disciplinary tool. Also known as the treadwheel, it consisted of a horizontal shaft with steps on it. Those being01:00 Fri 05th Apr 2002

Margaret Thatcher: Accustomed as I am...

Q. Thatcher didn't really say that, did she A. Of course not - just a little joke. Margaret Thatcher was always the most accomplished of speakers, but now, following doctor's orders, she's announced01:00 Fri 29th Mar 2002

Do u find this rticle ezi to reed : Spelling reform

Q. Doesn't this just go round and round What's new A. Dont u meen wots nu Yes, attempts at reforming the spelling of English go back over 200 years, in fact, to the time when the rules were first01:00 Fri 29th Mar 2002

Pilgarlicks make better lovers

Q. What are you talking about A. Pilgarlick was a 16th-century term for a bald head and, by extension, a pilgarlick was a bald man. At the time baldness was considered to come about as a result of01:00 Fri 29th Mar 2002

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