One More Time: Words

I remind the reader that I am a writer by trade and vocation and am, therefore, vitally concerned with words. So from time to time, I devote blog posts to words that intrigue me. It’s that time again.

I’ll start with zilch. According to Merriam-Webster, it means zero or nil. No source I checked was able to provide an etymology for the word. I found lots of guesses, like this one from Oxford Languages: perhaps from a Mr. Zilch, a character in the 1930s U.S. humorous magazine Ballyhoo.

Next: imbroglio. According to Oxford Languages, it means an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation. The word comes from the mid-18th century Italian word imbrogliare, which means to confuse. The word is related to embroil, which means to cause to fall into confusion.

Hobnob: Merriam-Webster says that the word means to associate familiarly, to chum around. It is derived from habnab, a very old English word that means in one way or another, by hook or by crook. According to Oxford Languages, hobnob originated in the early 19th century and means to drink together.

Grinch: According to Wikipedia, the Grinch is a fictional character created by Dr. Seuss. He is best known as the main character of the 1957 children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Here’s what he looks like:

And last for today: kowtow. The word literally means to kneel and touch the ground with the forehead in worship or submission. By extension, it means to act in an excessively subservient manner. It is derived from the Chinese k’o-t’ou (叩 頭), which means “knock the head.”

That’s enough for today.

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