What does it mean to have an albatross around your neck? A political pundit, referring to a current candidate, mentioned “an alcatraz around his neck.” The proper version, with an albatross, originates from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, wherein a sailor shoots an albatross, bringing down a curse on the boat, and his shipmates force him to wear an albatross around his neck as a symbol of shame. Grant notes that the name “albatross” likely derives from the Portuguese or Spanish “alcatraz,” meaning “pelican” or “sea bird.” So perhaps an alcatraz around the neck isn’t so far off after all. This is part of a complete episode.
- The Last Straw 12/11/2017: In this episode, books for word lovers, from a collection of curious words to some fun with Farsi. • Some people yell "Geronimo!" when they... [more]
- Skedaddle 12/02/2017: The months of September, October, November, and December take their names from Latin words meaning "seven," "eight," "nine," and "ten." So why don't their names... [more]
- Coast is Clear 11/25/2017: In the military, if you've lost the bubble, then you can't find your bearings. The term first referred to calibrating the position of aircraft and... [more]
- Hidden Treasures 11/20/2017: A new online archive of Civil War letters offers a vivid portrait of the everyday lives of enlisted men. These soldiers lacked formal education so... [more]
- Butterflies in Your Stomach 11/14/2017: If you're not using a dictionary to look up puzzling words as you read them, you're missing out on a whole other level of enjoyment.... [more]