Where does the word “spliff” come from?

Neither the OED and Etymonline has any answer to the etymology of the word. The latter does suggest it may have an origin in the Caribbean, but offers nothing better. The first citation is from 1936 only. Here are the last two citations: 1975 High Times Dec. 137/1 — Like Marley, he’s a spliff-toking Rastafarian. … Read more

Where does the word “snogging” come from?

Where does the word snogging come from, in the sense of canoodling? I’m looking for it etymology, not for its connotation or phonoaesthetic properties, as the answer of the other question provides. The OED says that its origin is unknown, as does Etymonline. The latter claims that the word “is said to have originated in … Read more

Where does the word “wankers” come from?

The term wanker is derived from the verb wank in the sense of to masturbate. However, neither the OED nor Etymonline can trace it further back than that: both claim it is of “obscure origin”, which just means they don’t know. As with my question on snogging, this term seems to have come into vogue … Read more

Dropping L in compound adjectives. Is it “skillful” or “skilful”?

We have been taught at school that when a word ending in “LL” helps form a compound word, “LL” becomes “L” (e.g. skill -> skilful). I have also come across the usage of this adjective as skillful (with double L’s). I checked the NGram to see how the usage has changed over time, and it … Read more

Which flavor of English (British vs. American) first had standard modern spellings?

Which flavor, British English or American English, first standardised its modern spellings? I’m mostly interested in the direction of alteration; for example, was the u dropped from colour or was the u added to color? I’m interested in a general answer rather than an answer to this specific example, though. The history of dictionary releases … Read more

“Spelt” vs. “spelled”

In the following sentence, should I say spelled or spelt: You spelt/spelled “Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis” wrong. Answer From Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary: spell (FORM WORDS) /spel/ verb [I or T] spelled or UK AND AUSTRALIAN ENGLISH ALSO spelt, spelled or UK AND AUSTRALIAN ENGLISH ALSO spelt This means that you should say “spelled” in US English and … Read more

Which is the correct spelling: “grey” or “gray”?

What is the difference? Or is there any? Which would be more British English? Answer The British National Corpus has 5445 cites for grey and 1092 cites for gray. The Corpus of Historical American English, on the other hand, paints the following picture: (X axis: year, Y axis: incidences per million words.) After seeing these … Read more