Crevasse is clearly a French word that means, pretty much, a big crevice. We’re most likely to find a crevasse in a glacier, because that’s where it gained a foothold in English.
Both words come from the word crevace, which English borrowed from French in the 14th century. Crevace became crevice in English and crevasse in French. Climbers used the French word as they hiked around Switzerland, avoiding deep fissures and chasms in the Alpine ice.
I saw a tenents of our core business in an item I was editing the other day, drawing a compromise between tenets and the often-misapplied tenants. Or perhaps simply resurrecting a perfectly good word from Latin.
Bullion is a hunk of gold or silver, usually in a form suitable for trading or ready to be made into coins. Add an o to the word and move the i, and it becomes bouillon, which is a base for soup or stew.
I was grinding fennel for our Christmas roast, and my daughter asked the age-old question: Which is the mortar and which is the pestle?
I can never remember, and I’m not sure why I can never remember. I think it might have something to do with which comes first. You grind the pestle against the mortar. But when I say it, the mortar comes first: mortar and pestle.
Slate, long one of the best online magazines, recently staked its claim as a go-to site for language news and analysis with the blog Lexicon Valley. The word-focused blog features some of the most respected and readable word experts around, such as Mark Liberman, James Harbeck, and Ben Zimmer. It’s become a top online destination for word mavens.