March 2018


Now, I thought memes were the remit of the young folks, and always preceded by the word ‘internet’. But the word itself has actually been around since 1976. It was coined by Richard Dawkins and refers to how ideas can spread from person to person by repetition and replication. So things like fairytales, jokes, rhymes, and so on, are in fact memes. Interesting, right? Here’s the bit of text from ‘The Selfish Gene’ where Dawkins coined it:

‘We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. “Mimeme” comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like “gene”. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to “memory”, or to the French word même.’


Despite the fact that lots of us, myself included, spent last weekend huddled round a log fire/radiator/bottle of whisky to escape the snow, it was officially the first day of spring yesterday. So this week’s word of the week is: equinox.

The equinox is when night and day last for the same amount of time. There are two a year, and Wikipedia tells me that it’s when the northern and southern hemispheres are equally illuminated (along with lots of other more complicated sciencey stuff). So that’s nice.

‘Equi’ means ‘equal’ and ‘nox’ means ‘night’ in Latin, which is weirdly logical for the English language. This one’s called the vernal equinox, vernal being from the Latin for spring, and the other one’s called the autumnal equinox which is, well, it’s just English isn’t it. There’s more on equinoxes here.


Nope, that’s not a typo (even though there’s lot of red underlining under it while I’m writing it). Masculate is exactly what you’re imagining – the opposite of emasculate. So it means to make something more masculine. You can also say that you’re masculinising something (which sounds made up but really isn't).

I came across this because I was investigating whether there’s a female equivalent of ‘emasculate’ (as in to deprive a man of his male role or identity, rather than the more literal definition of castration). Turns out there isn’t. *shakes fist at patriarchy*


Sometimes we just like words because of how they sound, and this is one of those. You can probably guess what it means – it’s the last stage of human decomposition when all the fleshy bits have gone (there are three others: autolysis, bloat (lovely) and active decay). Nice.

PS I don’t recommend a Google image search of this like I just accidentally did (especially not if you’re feeling a little bit delicate after the night before). Not nice.