Differences between American and British coinage.

Today’s Word of the Day is shill. You may not find this in a British English dictionary, but the American journalist Michael Tomasky wrote in his Guardian blog post yesterday:

“Listen up. I am not a shill!!”

The Oxford English Dictionary does list the word in Tomasky’s sense of ‘a decoy or accomplice, esp. one posing as an enthusiastic or successful customer to encourage other buyers, gamblers, etc,’ which it dates to 1916. It adds, from 1976, ‘One who poses as a disinterested advocate of another but is actually of the latter’s party; a mouthpiece, a stooge’. The usage is described as ‘slang (chiefly N. Amer.), [Origin unknown.]’

Interestingly, Tomasky later uses the verb shilling – what kind of a coinage is that?

A livingstone, I presume?

A brand new coinage from Chris Warren

Today’s offering from Word of the Day is a present from my esteemed friend and learned colleague Chris Warren – a brand new coinage, no less. We therefore break our usual custom and provide guidance on its meaning and usage, as you will not find this word in dictionaries – yet:


First, please notice the lack of an initial capital letter. This is not the Livingstone daisy, nor does it refer to the Scottish missionary and explorer of Africa – though it does derive from the latter. A livingstone is a missing file, originally a word processor file or ‘lost doc’ (as in: “I’m suffering from a livingstone since that hard disc crash”). It is possible to predict that this will lead to the finding of the same becoming known as a stanley (‘Ah! I’ve found the lost doc! “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”‘).

Readers of a linguistic bent (aren’t we all bent a little that way?) will recognise that this word is in the class that includes three which featured in Word of the Day earlier this month: hoover, dewar and newton. These are names which have lost their initial capital letters. It seems, according to Wikipedia, that these are capitonyms: ‘A capitonym is a word that changes its meaning (and sometimes pronunciation) when it is capitalized.’

After this lengthy and (we hope you’ll agree) special Word of the Day, the service will be taking a whole week’s rest whilst we roam. Or, to capitalise it: Rome. If you’d like to receive a copy of the (more or less) daily email, please visit the Word of the Day page.