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Beaks, Greek and Bones

Three weeks ago, in a comedy attempt to climb onto my bike and start cycling (something I clearly need more practice at), I bashed my coccyx. It’s still sore, so I’ve taken an unnatural interest in the word. First, I learnt how to spell it*. Then I found out it is triangular and bears a striking resemblance to a cuckoo’s beak. Apparently. I can only assume no other bird has a triangular beak quite the same. The Greeks obviously had the best sounding word for cuckoo (kokkyx) and so there we have it. If you’re interested, the plural is coccyges.

* Robert smugly said I should have known this already, for playing Scrabble with. I smugly pointed out how wrong he was. That is, until I remembered about the blanks. Still, it would still be a rare feat.

Drizzle and Mizzle

Something about language, but not Italian this time! Though it did come up during in conversation with some friends from my Italian class 🙂

Drizzle and mizzle are an interesting pair of words.

They mean practically the same thing, depending on your interpretation of the words ‘fine’ and ‘small’. This from my Chambers dictionary:

  • Drizzle, vi to rain in fine drops n a small light rain
  • Mizzle, vi to rain in small drops n fine rain

And they sound the same.

You might think they come from the same place or that one was just made up as a variation of the other. But they’re not. They come from completely different roots.

  • Drizzle [Frequentative of ME dresen, from OE dreosan to fall; Gothic driusan]
  • Mizzle [Cf LGer miseln mist]

I’m not an expert in etymology, but I can see that drizzle comes from Old / Middle English meaning fall, whereas mizzle comes from Low German meaning mist. Very interesting, isn’t it?

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