Q. Why is the word "llama" spelled with a double "l"?

A. "Llama" has two "l"s (els) because English speakers borrowed the name of that South American ruminant from Spanish. In Spanish, the double "l" is pronounced the way English speakers would pronounce the "y" in "yard." In English, the double "l" at the beginning of a word like "llama" is pronounced just as if it were a single "l." In other words, English speakers borrowed the spelling from Spanish but altered the pronunciation.

Two other double "l" words that have made their way from Spanish to English are "llano" (meaning "an open grassy plain in Spanish America or the southwestern United States"), "llanero" (meaning "a cowboy or herdsman in Spanish America").

Q. I've always wondered about the expression "hue and cry." The "cry" part of the phrase makes sense to me, but the "hue" part is confusing. Doesn't "hue" mean "color"?

A. The answer to your second question is "absolutely nothing." It's true that "hue" can mean "color" (or "gradation of color"), but the "hue" in "hue and cry" is a different word altogether - one meaning "shout" or "outcry." Like you, most people have never heard of this meaning of "hue." Though alive and well as part of the set phrase "hue and cry" (meaning "a clamor of pursuit or protest"), on its own this "hue" is now a most uncommon word.

Ultimately, it can be traced to the Old French word "hue," which also meant "outcry." Its meaning may have once been more specific (and distinct from "cry"), perhaps referring to a something like a trumpet call or a wordless yell, as opposed to spoken words.

The expression "hue and cry" itself dates back to Medieval England. Forms of the term can be found as early as the 13th century in Anglo-French legal documents (Anglo-French was the official language in England for a time following the Norman invasion), and by the 15th century the phrase had found its way into English.

Originally a "hue and cry" was a loud outcry used in the pursuit of a suspected criminal. In those days there was no organized police force in England, so the job of fighting crime largely fell to ordinary citizens. If you were the victim of or a witness to a crime, you were expected to make a lot of noise - yelling something like "stop thief!" - and anyone who heard you "raise the hue and cry" was legally bound to join in the pursuit.