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Feb 22, 2021
This week’s theme
Toponyms

This week’s words
Queenborough mayor
borstal
Poplarism
Shrewsbury clock
Scarborough warning

Queenborough clock
The Mayor of Queenborough by Thomas Middleton

Previous week’s theme
To hyphenate or not to hyphenate?
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

What’s common among a spa, mocha coffee, and capri pants?

All three are toponyms, words derived from place names. The word spa is coined after Spa, a resort town in Belgium. The mocha coffee is named after Mocha, a port city in Yemen, a trading center for coffee. And capris got their name from Capri, an Italian island, where they were popularized.

Many everyday words are coined after places. This week we’ll look at some unusual terms that have their origin in places. Such words are known as toponyms, from Greek topos (place). This week we focus on terms coined after places in the UK.

Queenborough mayor

PRONUNCIATION:
(KWEEN-buh-roh may-uhr)

MEANING:
noun: A position involving pomp and show, but no real power or authority.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Simon the tanner who becomes the mayor of Queenborough in Thomas Middleton’s 1620 play Hengist, King of Kent, or The Mayor of Quinborough. Queenborough is a small town in Kent, UK. Earliest documented use: 1668.

NOTES:
The website (permalink) of modern-day Queenborough is forthright when it says: “The Town Council is technically a parish, the ‘Town’ status allows us to have a Mayor and to continue with the long tradition of Mayors of Queenborough.” Two related terms are figurehead and sinecure.

USAGE:
“A Queenborough mayor behind his mace,
And fops in military show,
Are sovereign for the case in view.”
Matthew Green; The Spleen; 1754.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The closing years of life are like the end of a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped. -Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher (22 Feb 1788-1860)

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