Wormwood and vermouth are the same word

Many people are aware of the link between wormwood and absinthe. As names for the plant Artemisia absinthium, they are synonyms. A. absinthium has been used for many centuries to add a bitter flavor to various concoctions, especially wines and liqueurs. It has even taken the place of hops in some beer recipes. The cultural … Continue reading Wormwood and vermouth are the same word



When as a naive 8th-grader I first trudged my long and arduous way through J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, I understood "eleventy-one" (111) to be a charming neologism on the part of the author—meant to be a quirk either of Bilbo Baggins' speech or of Hobbit-language as a whole. In fact, this … Continue reading Eleventy-one

Etymology: weird

(Featured image: Close-up of the Franks Casket likely depicting the Norns) Old English wyrd—whether decreed by pagan forces or by the Christian God—generally has the meaning 'fate, destiny.' It literally means 'that which becomes, happens' and reflects Germanic *wurdiz, related to the verb weorþan 'turn, become.' (The þ-d alternation is due to Verner's law.) Anglo-Saxon poetry … Continue reading Etymology: weird


Riddle 47 of the Exeter Book breaks from tradition in revealing its solution in the first word. The poem describes a bookworm—moððe 'moth'—that has eaten through a manuscript page, recklessly devouring some of the written text along with it. Alliterating sounds are boldfaced: Moððe word fræt.    Me þæt þuhte wrætlicu wyrd,    þa ic þæt … Continue reading Logophagy

Franks Casket (Rear Panel)

Go to Intro The rear panel of the Franks Casket depicts the Siege of Jerusalem of 70 CE, when the future Emperor Titus sacked the city of Jerusalem and famously destroyed the Second Temple. The Jews who inhabited the city are put to flight by the Roman forces. Left ᚻᛖᚱᚠᛖᚷᛏᚪᚦ herfegtaþ Top ᛏᛁᛏᚢᛋᛖᚾᛞᚷᛁᚢᚦᛖᚪᛋᚢ    HICFUGIANTHIEᚱUᚴALIM titusendgiuþeasu    … Continue reading Franks Casket (Rear Panel)