Everyday Life Literary

Stole My Thunder

In the early 1700s, English critic and playwright John Dennis devised a new method of simulating the sound of thunder for his play Appius and Virginia.  The play was deemed a failure and its run at the Drury Lane Theatre was cancelled but Dennis’s invention caught on and was used in other productions without his permission, prompting him to protest.  His exact words are unconfirmed but it is generally accepted that he said something to the affect of:  “They stole my thunder!”

Clothing Life


The word moccasin in association with Native American footwear has been adopted by the greater American public but it was never a universally understood word within the different Native American tribes.  Moccasin was the word for shoe in the Virginia Algonquian language and was passed into English as a generalization through the encounters early English settlers had with the native community.  Captain John Smith of the Jamestown settlement is attributed with noting the translation in his 1612 glossary, ‘mockasins: shoes.’  In actuality, each tribe used words in their own language or dialect to signify shoe/slipper and it is coincidence that has made ‘moccasin’ the lasting word in English.  It is more than coincidence and surely a tribute to the beauty of the design and image of the moccasin that it has been preserved as a style of shoe until today and continues to permeate the broader fashion market.

Really Long Words


Several Latin stem words strung together as a joke by a student in Eton College in the 18th Century. The list came from a grammar book that listed a Latin word set in which all meant “little or no value.” These words were: flocci, nauci, nihili, and pili (with –fication at the end to make it a noun.)

floccifloccus (a whisp or piece of wool)

naucinaucum (a trifle)

nihilinihilism (nothing)

pilipilus (a hair)

In essence, they all mean little, nothing, or worthless. And quite obviously, this word is fun because it sets an example of a really long word.

Everyday Life Literary


‘Wowser’ is a delightful word with an interesting background, though its ultimate origin is unknown.

The word first appeared in print in 1899, in the Australian journal Truth, and was instantly popular in Australia. It rapidly spread to New Zealand, where it remains in use, and then eventually arrived in England, possibly brought by the Australian troops who served there during World War I.

The American writer and editor H. L. Mencken liked “wowser” and attempted to introduce it to the United States. He used the word frequently in American Mercury, the literary magazine he edited.

Despite Mencken’s efforts, however, the term never became particularly popular in American English; it is used occasionally, but it never truly caught on.

Everyday Life


‘Wheedle’ has been a part of the English lexicon since the mid-17th century, though no one is quite sure how the term made its way into English. (It has been suggested that the term may have derived from an Old English word that meant ‘to beg,’ but this is far from certain.)

Once established in the language, however, ‘wheedle’ became a favorite of some of the language’s most illustrious writers. ‘Wheedle’ and related forms appear in the writings of Wordsworth, Dickens, Kipling, Dryden, Swift, Scott, Tennyson, and Pope, among others.