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The QWERTY keyboard

Q. How did it all start A. The story of the QWERTY keyboard is almost as old as that of the typewriter itself. In 1867, Christopher Latham Sholes, a Milwaukee printer, filed a patent application for01:00 Fri 22nd Mar 2002

2 + 2 = 4: Mathematical symbols

Q. What symbols are we talking about here A. The symbols for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and equals (+ - x =). They are familiar enough to us today, but, at least in terms of01:00 Fri 22nd Mar 2002

Wash your mouth out: Gargarice, gargoyles and Joseph Lister

Q. Gargarice A. A 13th-century French word for gargarism borrowed by the English language. Q. Gargarism A. From the Latin gargarismus, gargarism is a mouthwash (though in the 17th century it also01:00 Fri 22nd Mar 2002

Silly, chilly... and very tricky

Four questions keep on coming up in these pages. One's a bit silly, another could be chilly and the last two are decidedly tricky. Let's take the silly one out of the way first. Q. What is 'pig'01:00 Sun 17th Mar 2002

Shouting for joy: Hip! Hip! Hurrah!

Q. Not Hurray A. Can be. And hooray. Q. So, where does it come from A. The origins of hip are obscure, and the only explanation - and this is deemed pretty fanciful by many - is that hip is a01:00 Thu 14th Mar 2002


Q. So Peter the Great taxed people who covered themselves in, well, poo A. No. People who had excrement on their faces. Q. Confused. Meaning A. Excrement is anything that is excreted, from the01:00 Thu 14th Mar 2002

The man on the Clapham Omnibus

Q. Who was he, then A. The phrase is used in legalese to mean 'the reasonable person', and has gone into the language to mean 'the man in the street', a modern Everyman. Q. Everyman A. Everyman01:00 Thu 14th Mar 2002

Brave Tommies

Q. Tommies A. British, or more particularly English, soldiers, especially 'other ranks', were for the best part of 200 years known generically as 'Tommy Atkins'. It's somewhat archaic now, though01:00 Sat 09th Mar 2002

You choose: Hobson's choice

Q. What exactly is Hobson's choice A. To offer someone a Hobson's choice is to give the person the option of taking the thing proffered or nothing. So, it's not really a real choice at all. Q. So01:00 Thu 07th Mar 2002

The innocence of the garden: Adamitism

Q. Adamitism Doesn't sound that innocent. A. It's innocent enough. Adamitism is dressing like Adam; that is, without any clothes. Q. Nudity, then A. Indeed. A search on the Internet reveals01:00 Thu 07th Mar 2002


Following the recent to-ing and fro-ing on the answerbank about the word didacoi and whether or not it is a derogatory term, it seems like a good time to have a look at the Gypsy language, more01:00 Sun 03rd Mar 2002

It's a which hunt

Q. A what A. A which hunt: the conundrum of when to use 'which' or 'that' in subordinate clauses. Q. Subordinate clauses A. A subordinate clause is one that requires the main part of the sentence01:00 Sun 03rd Mar 2002


Q. Just what is a clerihew A. Perhaps the best way to explain would be to give an example: A user of the answerbank Found that her mind went blank Whenever she discussed Why she was non-plussed 01:00 Sun 03rd Mar 2002

The manqueller

Q. Sounds serious. What is it A. Who was it, more like. Originally it meant a murderer, one who quells (in its archaic sense of 'to kill') a man - but from the Middle Ages on, it came to be used for01:00 Sat 23rd Feb 2002

Everyone's gone to the Moon: Just what did Neil Armstrong say

When, on 20 July 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on to the Lunar surface, what exactly did he say Think you know Was it, 'That's one small01:00 Fri 22nd Feb 2002


Q. What are they A. An antiautonym is one of a pair of words which mean the same thing, although one word looks as if it should be the opposite of the other. A. As distinct from A. An01:00 Thu 21st Feb 2002

Talking turkey (or are we )

Q. So, the turkey. What's the mystery A. To answer your question with a question, where, given the name, do you think turkeys might have originated Q. Turkey A. Wrong. Q. Obviously. Somewhere01:00 Fri 15th Feb 2002


Q. A. Also spelled Han'gul, Hankul (Great Script) is the indigenous alphabet of the Korean Peninsula. (For you completists out there it's also called Onmun, or Vernacular Script.) Q. But aren't01:00 Fri 15th Feb 2002

Anglo-Indian: Indian words in English

Q. What, like naan and chicken tikka masala A. Not exactly, although, it must be said, a large number of words from the Indian subcontinent relating to dishes at your local balti- or tandoori-house01:00 Fri 15th Feb 2002

What's new for 2002: the Collins Gem English Dictionary

The Collins Gem English Dictionary is 100 years old in 2002, but despite its age it's never out of date. To mark this anniversary Collins have published a centenary edition, which includes a new01:00 Sun 10th Feb 2002

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