The Word Detective will fix your spells

I'm fascinated by languge and words, like the origin of words and phrases, especially obscure ones. So stumbling across The Word Detective the other night while searching for the origin of the overused term "irony" was a trip; I ended up spending half the night browsing the archive of about 5,000 words. Not sure if the guy's always right (Evan Morris, from Columbus; his parents also wrote about word origins in some famous book ,I am made to understand), since sometimes his explanations don't jive with what I've read (he says "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey" involved decorative little brass monkeys, but what I read elsewhere about it having nautical origins, involving canonnballs and the "brass monkey" doohickeys that held them on deck), but he does offer several different theories on a lot of words even when he can't say which is right.

Picking an example at random: He says the word "nincompoop," in use since at least the 17th c, is possibly a butchering of the Latin "non compos mentis," or "not of sound mind." However, he notes, earlier forms of the word included "nicompoop" and "nickumpoop," which bear a bit less resemblance to the Latin.

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