If you're like me, you may have grown up seeing the name of the capital of Ukraine spelled Kiev, and gotten a little confused when news outlets started referring to it as Kyiv. There are actually a lot of different spellings, including Kyïv, Kyjiv, and Kyyiv, as well as the obsolete Kiou, Kiow, Kiovia, Kiowia, Kiew, Kief, and Kieff. The reason for all this was a lack of standardization on how to transliterate Ukrainian toponyms into English. Kiev was widespread from the 1920s onward because it was under the sovereignty of the Soviet Union and that was the Russian way to write down the city name. However, when Ukraine got independence, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs began a campaign to replace Russian linguistic relics. This started with formally changing the names of cities in the 1990s (this included other cities like Odessa instead of Odesa, Lvov instead of Lviv, and Kharkov instead of Kharkiv) and then lobbying Western media to update their stylizations. This didn't really pick up steam until Ukraine became more relevant on the national stage following the Russian invasion of Crimea and the current war. By this point, most news outlets and state departments have adopted Kyiv and the other spellings as correct. Going back in time, Kyiv has traditionally been thought to be named after its legendary founder Kiy, but similar to the Rome-Romulus situation, this is probably folk etymology. More likely, it's from a local word meaning something like "stick" or "club," but that's uncertain.
The Crimean War bequeathed a slew of linguistic contributions to the English language - including the balaclava being named after the Battle of Balaclava and the phrase thin red line coming from the reports of a Scottish regiment during the war - but today we're going to focus on the cardigan, a kind of sweater that became fashionable during the war. This originally referred specifically to a knitted sleeveless vest, named after James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, who was known for wearing a garment like that when he led the Charge of the Light Brigade. As the story of the event was retold back home in the United Kingdom, that detail caused the clothing item to rise in popularity and the word to be enshrined in the English language. Over time, the term also expanded from being a "sleeveless vest" to knitted sweaters in general, and then it became more associated with long sleeves and women's fashion due to the work of Coco Chanel in the 1940s and 50s, which is how we ended up where we are today. Finally, going backwards in time, the Cardigan General Brudenell governed was a county seat in Wales that was an Anglicization of the Welsh word Ceredigion, meaning "Ceredig's land," which referred to Ceredig ap Cunedda, a king of Wales in the 400s CE.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.