Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Dec 10, 2007
This week's theme
Whose what?

This week's words
busman's holiday
friar's lantern
curate's egg
widow's peak
shank's mare
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share
with Anu Garg

There's baker's dozen and bull's eye and deadman's hand (a poker hand) and blindman's buff.

Our language is sprinkled with terms coined with the formula X's Y. There are diseases and syndromes and body parts named after physicians (Parkinson's disease); there are theorems, laws, and numbers named after scientists (Avogadro's number); there are plants named after botanists (Ahnfelt's seaweed); and there are places named after explorers, though some are named after no one ("no man's land" :-).

This week we'll look at five terms that follow this X's Y or "someone's something" formula, terms that are named after no one in particular.

busman's holiday (BUS-manz HOL-i-day)

noun: A holiday spent doing things as at work.

[Imagine a bus driver having a day off, 'enjoying' a bus ride and you'll have a pretty good idea of this term. Going on a long drive might be a great vacation for many of us, but not for a bus driver. Of course, when the phrase came up some 200 years ago, bus drivers had charge of horse-drawn buses. The term is sometimes seen as 'businessman's holiday'.]

"Boundless energy and vaulting ambition carried Nicolas Sarkozy to the presidency of France. Now that he has had just over 100 days in office (including a hyperactive busman's holiday in New Hampshire), it is a good time to take stock of where all this energy may be leading."
The World According to Sarkozy; The Economist (London, UK); Aug 30, 2007.

See more usage examples of busman's holiday in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

The Gift of Time

What's the best gift of all?


Sign up to receive A.Word.A.Day in your mailbox every day.

"The most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace." -The New York Times

Sponsored by:

Give the Gift of Words

Share the magic of words. Send a gift subscription of A.Word.A.Day.

Anu on Words:
Writer Magazine
Globe & Mail


Bulletin board
Wordsmith Talk

Moderated Chat
Wordsmith Chat

Readers' Voice

Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2017 Wordsmith