Fascinating Fundamentals

As I was writing on my 1939 story, I stumbled across a never-before-heard word that fit perfectly for the life-force of a young man who's being kept cooped up. 


According to, birr comes from the Old English byre meaning a strong wind, a cognate with the Icelandic byrr meaning favorable wind.

As a noun birr means

  1. force; energy; vigor
  2. emphasis in statement, speech, etc
  3. a whirring sound

Language Difference in the U.S. and the U.K.

When I lived in Scotland for a couple of years, it took a bit of time to catch onto some of the words they used in place of a U.S. word.  

For example:

Instead of calling my knitted long-sleeved pullover a sweater, in Scotland, they called it a jumper

That long green and prolific vegetable, we call a zucchini? In Scotland, they call it a courgette! Zucchini is an Italian word and courgette is French. And the Scottish and French do have long-term connections. But here in the Midwest, settled by Native Americans then French fur traders then Germans, Scandinavians, and Scots .... where did that Italian connection come from? I haven't the foggiest.

The word that really tripped me up was pants! Yes, the two-legged article of clothing that we wear on the bottom half of our bodies. In the U.K., pants are underpants. I remember a young girl, I think she was 5- or 6-years-old, and very strong-minded too, who had a a fun pair of pants and I complemented her on them and she was soooo exasperated with me. "These are NOT pants. These are trousers. Pants are what you wear under your trousers. Get it right." 

The English language is such an interesting language, not least because of the differences between the U.K. and the U.S. use of words. It is fun, albeit sometimes embarrassing, to learn those differences.