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The AnswerBank Articles

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Q. What is shorthand A. Shorthand - in short - is any method of writing that is designed to maximise speed of writing and reading back. Typically, systems employ symbols or shortcuts that can be01:00 Sat 03rd Nov 2001

Dragons to dragoons

Q. Dragons A. The mythical dragon, as we all know, is a winged lizard with a serpent's tail, but the word comes from the Greek drakon, which is related to drakos, meaning eye: dragons were creatures01:00 Sat 03rd Nov 2001


Q. What is it A. The science and art that deals with the use, display and regulation of hereditary symbols which individuals, institutions and corporations employ to distinguish themselves. These01:00 Sat 03rd Nov 2001

Sign languages

Q. What's the history of sign languages for the deaf A. In the sixteenth century Geronimo Cardano, a physician in Padua, Italy, proclaimed that deaf people could be taught to understand written01:00 Sat 27th Oct 2001

Ich farshtey nisht: Yiddish

Q. Why does Yiddish sound like German A. Because grammatically and lexically Yiddish - from the German J disch, Jewish - is a Germanic language, which means that, in addition to German, it is01:00 Fri 26th Oct 2001


Yobs, thugs and bovver boys, the words go in and out of fashion. Only one seems to be perennially popular: hooligan. So where did this odd-sounding word come from Q. When did the word first come01:00 Fri 26th Oct 2001

What's the Turing in Turing test

Q. What is the Turing Test A. The Turing Test is a means by which to determine the presence of artificial intelligence (AI) in computer programs. It was proposed by the British mathematician Alan01:00 Fri 19th Oct 2001

What's in a name : Surnames

Q. Montague or Capulet A. ''Tis but thy name that is my enemy,' said Juliet on the balcony - her Romeo belonging to the family of the sworn enemies of her own. She also said, 'A rose by any other01:00 Thu 18th Oct 2001

Herd about the labour of moles : How we describe groups of animals

Q. A labour of moles What's that all about A. A gang of moles has, since the 15th century, been known as 'a labour', presumably because the little things appear to work very hard digging their01:00 Thu 18th Oct 2001

How Star Trek has enriched the English language

Q. 'Tell me, Kirk, what is this thing called love ' A. And, more often than not, he told them - the ladies that is - enfolding them in his manly embrace until they went limp with pleasure. But by the01:00 Mon 15th Oct 2001

Fowl play: You've cooked his goose

Q. What A. You've spoilt his plans by getting in first. This probably arises from the idea that the goose which was being fattened for a feast was eaten early, so leaving nothing for the special01:00 Mon 15th Oct 2001


Q. When and why did the word 'gazump' come into our vocabulary A. Also seen in earlier forms as gezoomph and gazumph, a number of sources suggest that this comes from the Yiddish gezumph, meaning to01:00 Mon 15th Oct 2001

When treacle is good for your soul

Q. So, treacle: a thick, black substance obtained from the sugar cane A. True, that's how we usually think of it now. But originally it applied to many medicinal compounds - most famously theriaca01:00 Mon 08th Oct 2001

So many ways to go to hell

Q. No hell below us A. That's a question that has puzzled the greatest minds, so we here at the answerbank will not be attempting to give you the definitive answer. However, we can tell you a little01:00 Mon 08th Oct 2001

Curiosity killed the cat

Q. The band which symbolised the mid-1980s A. That's a matter of opinion, though the cap worn backwards by the bloke with the funny name seems now as something of a style faux-pas. However, back01:00 Mon 08th Oct 2001

Calling a spade a shovel: euphemisms

Q. What-isms A. Euphemisms, from the Greek euphemos, meaning 'auspicious' or 'sounding good'. The dictionary definition of a euphemism is 'an agreeable or inoffensive word or expression substituted01:00 Mon 01st Oct 2001

A real dead ringer for love: Rings and ringers

Q. So we've found out what a dead ringer is, how about other kinds A. There are a couple of other meanings: 1. In the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force - whose uniform and ranks derive more from the01:00 Mon 01st Oct 2001

There are many ways to break an egg - and just about as many ways to use them in sayings

Q. Which came first, the chicken or the egg A. just one of the eggy metaphors we use in everyday speech. Now it's often trotted out as something along the lines of 'it's a chicken-and-egg01:00 Mon 01st Oct 2001

Frank Auerbach

Q. Who is Frank Auerbach A. The British painter and printmaker Frank Auerbach was born into a Jewish family in Berlin in 1931. He was sent to England by his parents just before the outbreak of World01:00 Mon 24th Sep 2001

From Pratt's Bottom to Puddletown - place names to make you smile

Q. So Piddletrenthide isn't the only one then A. Where do you start There's Crazies Hill in Oxfordshire, Ugley in Essex, Piddles and Puddle in Dorset, Nasty in Bedfordshire, Bat and Ball in Kent01:00 Mon 24th Sep 2001

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