"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Saturday, 10 January 2009


I recently came across the term enceinte in relation to a castle. I knew that enceinte meant in an advanced stage of pregnancy – from the same French word. I wasn’t sure how a castle could be pregnant...

Upon investigation I discovered enceinte was also a noun and meant the main works of fortification—walls, ramparts, and parapets—forming the primary enclosure of a fort or fortress. Shame, I had lovely visions of lots of little castles appearing over the drawbridge...


  1. As an etymologist, in your researches, can you track the increasing usage of the phrase 'looking to' ? As in the company is looking to improve on last year's performance. It seems to have displaced a host of perfectly good word or phrases like - planning to, hoping to, wanting to expecting to. It has become my lastest growl-worthy phrase. I'm sure it's a sign of my age but I hate 'instore' and the like. The other one which sets my teeth on edge is 'going forward'. No-one simply has a plan any more, they have a plan going forward. What otherkind of plan is there? Even I can plan what happened last week, because it has already happened!!!!! Aaaargggghhh!"!!!!!!!!!

  2. I'm looking to investigate your question as soon as the opportunity arises.

    Seriously Marcel, I too abhor some of the changes taking place in our language. My key dislike at the moment is 'gotten' as the past tense of the verb 'to get'. It is so common that it is in danger of becoming part of the language.

    Insofar as 'looking to' is concerned I hadn't noticed it so much but I bet I will now.

  3. Gotten is the fault of our special friends across the pond. Others are entirely self-inflicted.