September 22, 2007


Bunkum- empty talk

Politicians and empty talk go hand in hand. Any surprises then that the word bunkum has its origin in the world of politics? As the story goes, Felix Walker a Congressman from Buncombe County, North Carolina, US around 1820 gave the dullest of the speeches ever to the members of the 16th Congress. Despite people walking out on him, he continued, for his constituents expected him to make a speech, and so he was "obliged to speak for Buncombe" (as told by him later). Ever since buncombe which was later spelled as bunkum (also shortened to bunk sometimes) came to mean claptrap nonsense.


September 15, 2007


Since I have been away for so long, I thought I should make my comeback with a charming word and there's nothing more charming than serendipity. I think the credit of popularising this word should rest with the movie, which is how I too became aware of its existence. If started eulogising about the movie, then the origin would take a back backseat so all I'm going to say is that its ridiculously romantic and lovely.I'm not spoiling the story for anyone who has not seen it by recounting the story.

Serendipity is described as the effect of discovering something fortunate while looking for something else.
The credit for coining it goes to Horace Walpole who used it in a letter to his friend Horace Mann. He claimed to draw inspiration from a Persian fairy tale. His exacts word are as follows

"It was once when I read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right—now do you understand serendipity? One of the most remarkable instances of this accidental sagacity (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for, comes under this description) was of my Lord Shaftsbury, who happening to dine at Lord Chancellor Clarendon's, found out the marriage of the Duke of York and Mrs. Hyde, by the respect with which her mother treated her at table."

The Three Princes of Serendip is an old Persian fairy tale about three men who were on a mission but they always found something that was irrelevant but needed in reality. They discovered things by good fortune and sagacity.
Serendip is the Persian name for Sri Lanka. Which makes the word much closer to home.

Image: A scene from the movie Serendipity

September 13, 2007


I'm a foodie wannabe. Unfortunately my knowledge and skills in the kitchen aren’t on par with my love of food. And that explains why I pour out my love for food on Semantica (Remember the posts on croissant and cappuccino? )

Sandwich was long invented before John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (located in south east England), an 18th century English aristocrat, lent his title to it. The guy was known to be an obsessive gambler and to avoid leaving the gambling table to take supper, he favored this portable type of food. It allowed Lord Sandwich to continue playing cards, while eating without getting his cards sticky from eating meat with his bare hands.

Trivia: Be ready for some chuckles!! To the south of Sandwich is another little town called Ham. So the road leading to the towns has sign posts reading:


A sign that gets stolen every now and then.

And if that did not raise a chuckle, then try this, there's yet another town called Deal nearby, so there are places where road signs read.....(you guessed it!!!)

Sources: ,
Image: Google Images

September 07, 2007


First, my sincere apologies for not being regular on Semantica for more than a month. Starting with a word which everybody knows and nothing interesting in its origin too. Sorry about that.

Meaning - a large assembly of boy scouts or a large festive gathering.

Origin - The pic shown on right hand side is none other than Robert Baden Powell. He was the founder of boy scouts during 1880-90s. The word Jambo means "Hello" in swahili and Swahili is the language spoken in Kenya and other countries of Africa. Baden Powell was living in Kenya and where he started scouting and teaching to soldiers. So teach them , he used to gather all of them and used to start with word "Jamboree".

Just for more information Anil Kumble is known as JUMBO in Indian Cricket Team.

Sources - Image - google image and