Before it was good as gold for Huck Finn it was coated in coal ...

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A WORD IN THE HAND: PIE

Before it was good as gold for Huck Finn it was coated in coal dust

A column to satisfy your inner grammar nerd

Journalist

The world is obsessed with numbers right now. Whether it’s the number of Covid-19 infections, the number of deaths, the number of businesses failing, the number of days since lockdown began or the number of days left until we can enjoy a small dram of whiskey, we are all counting. 

You could say numbers are all the rage. I can’t find a decent explanation for where the expression “all the rage” came from, but the word “number” comes from the PIE root “nem” which means to assign, to allot or to take.

The Afrikaans word neem comes from the same old root, as do many other words. If you’re wondering what PIE means, any etymologist will tell you it’s the abbreviation of Proto-Indo-European, the earliest known form of language that dates back to about 5,500 years ago and has its fingers in almost every word spoken in any country anywhere in the world today...

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