About Rob Kyff

Rob Kyff

Rob Kyff

Rob Kyff is the language columnist for the Hartford Courant, as well as a teacher, editor and writer. His column  appears regularly in several newspapers across the country.

A native of Armonk, N.Y., Kyff earned a BA at Amherst College and an MA in American Studies at the University of Minnesota. In Minneapolis, he served as director of public information for a social-service agency and edited the employee magazine for a national retail chain.

He has taught English and history at Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford since 1977 and also served as the school's director of public affairs, editor of its alumni magazine and advisor to the student newspaper.

His essays have appeared in many newspapers, including the Washington Post,

Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and Baltimore Sun, and his articles have appeared in Reader's Digest,American History and Northeast. He contributed to

Speaking Freely -- A guided Tour of American English from Plymouth Rock to Silicon Valley, published by Oxford University Press in 1997.

He has published two books: Word Up! - A Lively Look at English (Writers Club Press, 2000) and Once Upon a Word - True Tales of Word Origins (Tapestry Press, 2003).

He lives in West Hartford, Conn., with his family.


Wordcestery.com -- Which Words Share a Common Lineage? Jan 13, 2021

Is "spray," meaning "an arrangement of flowers," related to "spray," meaning "particles of water"? Because flowers are often spread out in a pattern resembling a shower or fountain, you might think so. But the flower "spray," which first appeared in ... Read More


Jack Be Lively; Jack Be Quick Jan 06, 2021

Q: How in the world did Bill come to be a nickname for William; Bob for Robert; Chuck for Charles; Dick for Richard; Jim for James; and Jack for John? — Monte Miller, Simsbury, Connecticut A: Exploring the origins of these nicknames lures us in... Read More


Word Guy Gets a Taste of His Own Medicine Dec 30, 2020

"Physician, heal thyself!" When I see that subject line in my email inbox, I know exactly what's coming: a message from an eagle-eyed reader noting a typo or other error in my column. Can you spot my mistakes? No. 1: Someone watching cows chewing the... Read More


Keeping Up With Peter and Lazy Susan Jones Dec 23, 2020

Did the expression "peter out" begin with a guy named "Peter"? Who are those Joneses we're always keeping up with? And is there an actual Susan behind "Lazy Susan"? Several proposed explanations for the origin of "peter out" have, well, petered out. ... Read More