June 2010

Tweets, c. 31BC

Okay, the Romans missed out on Twitter. But what we do electronically, they were fond of doing in person—talking, that is. Thus we have the rostrum, or speaking platform, popular in ancient Rome. In Latin, rostrum meant snout, bill, beak of a bird and—ships prow. But we’re not talking just any prow here; we’re talking the prow of a ship outfitted with a heavy iron… Read More

The Original "Book People"

I love etymology, the study of word origins. English makes this field especially amusing, with its humongous appetite for foreign words which it absorbs like “The Blob” into its own vast lexicon. Here’s one I caught as I wrote Turkoise: Way back in the Bronze Age, a fibrous reed with various domestic uses was grown and shipped from a beautiful Phoenician city the Greeks called… Read More