Last week I wrote a blog post titled Two Lessons for a Wicked Cold Day. After publishing that post it occurred to me that readers who are not familiar with New England may be wondering why I chose the word wicked. Sure enough, someone emailed me last night to ask what I meant by “wicked cold.” In New England we tend to use the word “wicked” as an adjective in place of extreme or very. For example, the Boston Celtics played wicked good defense against the Detroit Pistons last night.
The New England-style use of wicked originated is just one of many mysteries of vernacular. For more mysteries of vernacular lessons, take a look at TED-Ed’s Mysteries of Vernacular series. Each of the 26 lessons focus on one word that is often used by English speakers. A history of the word’s origins and evolution of its use is featured in each video lesson. The entire playlist is embedded below beginning with the word “yankee.”
Words of the World. Words of the World is a collection of videos featuring historians and linguists explaining the origins of and history of the use of words in the English language. The videos attempt to put the words into a somewhat modern context. For example this video about the word “guerrilla” makes reference to Che Guevara. The video I’ve embedded below explains the word “coup.”