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Origin of laughable?

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Laughable Adjective : to inspire laughter: comically ridiculous. A variation based on laugh which evolved from the Middle English laughen, laghen  

How many new words in Shakespeare?

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Estimates of the number of new words and phrases used in the complete work of William Shakespeare vary considerably.  In 1942, leading Shakespeare scholar Alfred Hart, wrote that the Stratford playwright is "credited by the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary with being the first user of about 3,200 words."  That number is now considered an overestimate. But by how much? A British Council website from 2016 suggests 'more than two thousand' while the invaluable Online Shakespeare Biography goes with around 1200.

Origin of word blackmail?

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The original meaning of blackmail was not directly connected to the concept of extortion

What does 'performative' mean?

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The word  performative  has become ubiquitous but is often misused  .   Parliamentary  kabuki The always informative Dot Wordsworth points out in her Spectator column that the correct usage of performative is 'as a label useful in identifying a sort of utterance that is different from a statement of fact.'  She cites as examples, 'I do (in the marriage ceremony), I bet, I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth, I promise, Let there be light (if you are God) and I apologise.' Performative does not mean to play to the gallery (or TV cameras!) or act insincerely for public consumption. Kabuki is the word that  better describes theatrical behaviour that attempts to attract maximum media attention. What is kabuki?

Why do we say 'flea market'?

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March aux puces - original flea market still popular in Paris A mysterious term given that the market for fleas is limited. There are two (vaguely) plausible theories: 1. March aux puces? A translation of march aux puces. This was the popular name for a large outdoor market in Paris that became popular in the 1920s.  The name  march aux puces was "because there are so many second hand articles sold of all kinds that they are believed to gather fleas." [E.S. Dougherty, "In Europe," 1922]   2. Dutch Swamp? From the Dutch word for swamp is given as “vlie”, which sounds like flea when spoken in English. The Dutch settlers held markets in the then swampland that was Manhattan Island.  The OED goes with the French market explanation as the more probable. French words in English

What is 'the House' in American politics?

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The American political system has three centres of power. These are  the President and the two chambers in the American Congress the -  Senate  and the  House of Representatives .  'The House' is the bigger body because congressmen are elected at a local level while the Senate consists of two senators from each State. At present the Presidency & the Senate are controlled by the Democrats. The Republicans have a small majority in the House. Legislation has to pass from the House to the Senate and finally to the President.  Because the two main parties (the Republicans & the Democrats) have major philosophical differences most legislation is contested.