You've found it: the best place this side of the Platte River for finding answers on word origins and "quotidian" things. Like how a naked noblewoman gave us the term "peeping Tom" (and a really great logo for a chocolate bar).

Site Statistics
  Questions Answered35
  Grammar Lessons8
  Literary Excerpts25
  This Weeks in History28
  Origins & Histories19

For more about this publication and why I started it, visit the About section.


It's been a good seven or eight months since I last posted news on the development of a new sister site for Quotidian.

The good news is that it's under development and is nearing completion, and I hope to have it launched within the next 3-4 weeks.

Why a new site? Quite simply, because this one is outdated and too difficult to update. Web technology has come a long way in the past few years, as has my knowledge of how to use it. The new site will be faster, more content-rich, and more fresh. You'll also be able to leave your comments and more easily suggest new articles.

Check back within the next few weeks for the link. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and thank you for your continued support.


I've noticed a great number of searches done on this site that reference the word quotidian, and until now there has been no reference on this site as to what the word means or where it comes from.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (the most venerable of all dictionaries), the word was first used around 1340. It comes to us from the Latin quotidianus, meaning "daily", and this in turn from the Latin quotus (however many occur, every) + dies (day). The word therefore literally means "every day," though today we use it to mean "daily" or "occurring on a daily basis." It can also connote something rather mundane that occurs regularly; e.g., "Most of Elvie's blog entries were nothing more than trivial ramblings on her quotidian existence."

The word is used in medicine to refer to an illness that has regularly recurring symptoms (a quotidian fever).

Also of interest: The French word for "daily" is quotidien (also a daily newspaper).


“Acquaintance, n. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.”
     — Ambrose Bierce

“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam today.”
     — Lewis Carroll

The English language is full of great words that just sound...funny. Here are two of my longstanding favorites.

flabbergast (FLA-bur-gast) [verb] : to put to confusion or embarrassment; to astonish utterly, confound

Etymologists are unsure as to the exact origins of flabbergast. It first appeared in the 1772 Annual Register in an essay entitled On New Words. The author, using the pseudonym Observator, appealed to the editor to discourage the wanton use of "fashionable" words, citing flabbergast as an example (“Now we are flabbergasted and bored from morning to night…”).

Flabbergast is widely assumed to be an arbitrary combination of the words flabber and aghast. The first part may come from flab, perhaps because one who is flabbergasted shakes like jelly when he is aghast… Then again, some believe it may have already been in use in certain dialects, namely Sussex, in Southern England.

Ex. Ms. Tippet was so flabbergasted by the appearance of her son at the wedding that she fainted, and not even the strongest smelling salts could avail her.

tomfoolery (tom-FOO-luh-ree, -FOOL-ree) [noun] : the action or behavior of a tomfool; playful or foolish behavior; silly trifling

What is a tomfool? Today, it's simply someone who acts like a fool, but in the Middle Ages it was a nickname for any half-witted man, a Thom Foole.

The name Tom (short for Thomas), was "often a generic name for any male representative of the common people" (OED), so any fool walking down the street was labeled a Tom fool. We still use Tom to refer to a random man in the phrase "Tom, Dick, and Harry."

Ex. Mother got so fed up with the neighbors' tomfoolery that she up and moved.


It's the holiday season again, and with it comes a whole lot of bustling and hubbub, scented candles, trees, presents, mistletoe... the list goes on. But do we really understand why we do the things we do around Christmas? I wrote a few articles on the subject a few years ago, and think you might find them to be of interest.


Throughout this site and in all issues, I make liberal use of the Felix Titling font in article headers. To improve the aesthetic appearance of this site and all Quotidian issues in Word format, I strongly encourage you to download and install this font. If you already have the font installed, the following letters will all be capitalized (and match the font in the navigation bar above):

felix titling

Copy the font file to your c:\windows\fonts directory and you're good to go.


Those of you browsing this site with Internet Explorer will receive a popup warning you about ActiveX controls. I encourage you to switch to Firefox and save yourself the hassle. If you must know, this thing pops up because my navigation uses JavaScript to power the subtle hover effects, and not because I'm trying to install spyware on your hard drive.


VOL. 1 NO. 24
Released: January 29, 2007

In this closeout issue of the first volume, I discuss the fascinating origins of the ubiquitous Frisbee disc, the interesting history of the word gargantuan, and a brief analysis of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. Keep your eyes peeled for the first issue of volume 2, due out before the end of the quarter.

VOL. 1 NO. 23
Released: December 30, 2006

The last issue of 2006 deals loosely with holiday themes. A brief explanation of Boxing Day (what the heck is it, anyway?) and the meaning of auld lang syne, plus a timely French tale on the virtue of patience. The online version will be available next week.

VOL. 1 NO. 22
Released: November 24, 2006

The quickest issue to press yet! Enjoy a brief article on the 147th anniversary of Darwin's The Origin of Species, the feisty Irishman behind the term "boycott," and an excerpt from Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda.

VOL. 1 NO. 21
Released: September 30, 2006
The last issue gave a subtle nod to the Scots, who produced more than their fair share of renowned authors, billionaires, scientists, and English-slaying rebels. Included is an excerpt from J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and a recipe for haggis. Well, not really a recipe--more of a rough estimate.
Get Internet ExplorerGet Firefox
Get the latest browser