Tagged Questions

Etymology is the history of the origin of words and phrases.

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1answer
22 views

What is the source of “set”, meaning balanced?

In the sport of rowing, a boat is "set" if it's balanced and doesn't wobble. It can also be used as a noun as in "We had good set this morning", or as a verb- "Set the boat, gosh darn it". I've found ...
1
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1answer
42 views

Origin of the expression “skin of a rhinoceros”?

The Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has recently published an open letter where he says: ... It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros. I am wondering where this expression "skin of a rhinoceros" is ...
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0answers
13 views

Real estate derivation [duplicate]

The derivation of "real" in the term "real estate". Can it be literal in describing parcels of land as distinguished from other appurtenances that was added or exists on the parcel? Could it mean ...
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0answers
53 views

Why does modern English only have one affirmative response?

I learned that nearly all Germanic languages have two affirmative responses, one of which answers a positively framed question and the other answer a negatively framed question. In modern English, ...
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3answers
152 views

The origins of “waffle”

Scottish dogs used to waff American voters waffled in 2000 British politicians “waffle on” for hours And Swedish children eat them on March 25th Waffle nowadays has basically three meanings: ...
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1answer
77 views

What is the origin of the expression “the big picture”?

The expression the big picture, meaning "the entire perspective on a situation or issue", is very common today. Where does this phrase come from? Was there a literal big picture that it once ...
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2answers
83 views

Why does the word delight have positive connotations? [on hold]

I'm sitting here, and hear someone respond to a request with "I'd be delighted". I understand the words to say this is a positive response along the lines of "sure, I'd be happy to help". But I'm ...
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3answers
61 views

Does 'invidious' imply hatred/malice for 'envy'? [on hold]

invidious (adj) = (Of an action or situation) likely to arouse or incur resentment or anger in others Etymology: c.1600, from Latin invidiosus "full of envy, envious," from invidia "envy, ...
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1answer
56 views

Two quite different meanings of “bear”

As a noun, a bear is a type of carnivore. As a verb, to bear means to support or produce. I wonder how the two meanings finally ended up in one single word. Is there any connection between the two ...
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0answers
61 views

How does the “re-” prefix in “remit” have anything to do with sending money? [closed]

For the verb remite, what’s an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definitions 1 and 2 to remember their meaning? I already understand its definition, and thus am not asking about its definition. I ...
0
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1answer
32 views

How did the noun 'remit' evolve to mean 'the task assigned' and 'an item referred'? [on hold]

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definitions 1 and 2 that helps to remember its meaning? 1. remit = [chiefly British] The task or area of activity officially assigned to an individual ...
3
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1answer
54 views

Where does the “… take Manhattan” trope originate?

There are a number of creative works whose titles end in this way. For example, The Muppets Take Manhattan, a 1984 film “First We Take Manhattan”, a 1987 song Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes ...
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3answers
67 views

Does anyone know the origins of “lucks a mussy” ( phonetic as I don't know correct spelling).

My mother used the saying lucks a mussy ?correct spelling and I have always wondered about it origins and meaning. I think it means Lord have mercy but am not sure on this.
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1answer
62 views

A noun for phenomenon experienced by wave-particle duality

We have known for centuries that elementary particles exhibit both wave and particle properties. Does the English Language have a word that describes this wave-particle duality?
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7answers
3k views

Does “candlelight” mean “compare side by side”?

Some of my colleagues use the word "candlelight" to mean "directly compare similar things". A specific example is comparing two lines on a line chart like this: "We can use this chart to ...
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1answer
85 views

Etymology of the meaning of waste as a broad expanse [closed]

Merriam-Webster online dictionary says one of the meanings of "waste" is: a broad and empty expanse(as of water) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/waste I'm interested in the origin of this ...
4
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1answer
126 views

What is the source of the phrase “phony baloney”?

The term baloney means Foolish or deceptive talk; nonsense: typical salesman’s baloney [corruption of bologna] [Oxford Dictionaries Online] Etymonline provides the following derivation ...
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1answer
43 views

What is the origin of the word “copped”?

In the language used by footy (Australian football) commentators the word "copped" is frequent. For instance, if a player gets knocked on the head, say, then the sentence might be "player X copped ...
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2answers
35 views

How did 'adumbrate' evolve to mean 'represent in outline'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 1 that helps to remember its meaning? 1. adumbrate = [with object] Represent in outline: Etymonline for adumbration: 1530s, from Latin ...
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1answer
62 views

Same word with opposite meanings [duplicate]

The connotation of adjective 'appropriate' is positive, while that of the verb is negative. 1. What's this phenomenon called, though this question allows any part of speech (and not just an ...
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2answers
132 views

What is the origin of “alrighty”?

It is a friendlier and more colloquial version of "alright". It is also heard in the exclamation/interjection "Alrighty, then!". I usually hear it at the end of conversations in Canadian English, ...
2
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1answer
76 views

The connection between roosters and genitalia

It is a known fact that the same word (same spelling and pronunciation) is used to describe both a rooster and a part of male genitalia (I am not sure how vulgar it would be of me to use the word ...
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1answer
55 views

Movable Type vs. WordPress [closed]

Is the name of the blogging platform 'WordPress' word play? Does it have any additional meaning for a native English speaker? For example, the name of the blogging platform 'Movable Type' refers to ...
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0answers
51 views

Does the English prefix hiberno- mean that the Irish were associated with winter? [closed]

In Medieval Latin, hibernus meant Irish: https://www.google.com/search?q=hiberno+etymology In Latin, hibernus meant wintry: https://www.google.com/search?q=hibernate+etymology Therefore, can I say ...
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3answers
256 views

Why is “to switch gears” used for “to change topic”?

The expressions to switch gears, to shift gears are often (too often for my taste, but that is a different matter) used to announce a switch from one topic to another in an oral presentation ...
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1answer
58 views

Why do we say “rips and tears”?

For example, "Clothing must be free from rips and tears." It seems to me that the words "rips" and "tears" can be used interchangeably, and that using both is redundant. Is there a particular reason ...
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2answers
32 views

How did 'subsume' evolve from the Latin for 'take + under'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? subsume = [with object] Include or absorb (something) in something else: Etymonline: 1530s, from ...
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2answers
947 views

What is the etymology of the term “private eye”?

The term private eye has widespread use to mean private detective or investigator. See, e.g., Oxford Dcitionary Online Several websites, such as this one, suggest that the term was based on a logo ...
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2answers
108 views

Is “fresher” really a “proper” English word?

I see a lot of folks on Stackoverflow using fresher when describing themselves as beginners at any given topic. I have never really heard of "fresher" as a synonym for beginner. I know "freshman" as ...
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4answers
2k views

Etymology of a “pegged CPU”

There's a slightly obscure, slang meaning in tech circles of the word "pegged" as it relates to a computer's CPU. When it is fully utilised for a duration (at least several seconds), you can say that ...
0
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1answer
48 views

When and where did “spanking” begin to be used as an adjective? [duplicate]

"That's a spanking car." "A spanking little horse." Spank t.v. - To beat across the buttocks with the open hand, to strike especially on the buttocks with the open hand. i.v. - to ...
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0answers
141 views

Origin of the phrase “social justice warrior”

What is the origin of the phrase "social justice warrior"? RationalWiki says that the phrase "social justice" (without warrior) originated in the 1840s. Searching twitter for top tweets about ...
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0answers
42 views

When/where/why did “Look who it ain't/isn't” appear?

It seems to me that... "Well! Look who it ain't!" ...is/was normally used quite dismissively, referring to a newly-arrived person of low social status, who the speaker would often then proceed ...
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4answers
126 views

Why is taking a side street called a “rat run”?

I stumbled upon this expression for the first time while doing some research for an answer, and I have to admit I love it! An explanation of rat running/ a rat run is as follows "Rat running/ A ...
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2answers
73 views

How did 'pummel' evolve from the meaning of apple?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? to pummel = [with object] 1. Strike repeatedly with the fists 1.1. [North American, informal] ...
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2answers
42 views

Why does 'with' mean 'against' and not 'alongside' in phrases of opposition?

In phrases like fight with, argue with, combat with etc, why does with mean the subject is opposing the object (grammatical object, technically a human opponent)? Phrases like go with, study with, ...
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2answers
80 views

Why is “work” spelled with an “o”

Why is the word "work" spelled with an "o"? I can't find the answer anywhere. I know it comes from Old English "weorc" but I can not find how it came to be spelled "work" instead of "werk".
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0answers
29 views

What is the origin of “over index”?

I often encounter (and use) this phrase in a context meaning to weight more heavily during decision making than is sensible, or to focus more heavily during a discussion than is warranted. For ...
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1answer
311 views

What's the etymology of “dash”?

Dash is one of those words with more meanings than letters. These include to rush (I dashed out), to destroy (my hopes were dashed), and a punctuation mark (em dash etc.). There are also various other ...
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3answers
174 views

What is “Broken Britain”?

It's not a flattering term for Great Britain but due to its catchy alliteration it has not run out of steam among newspaper editors. Wikipedia says Broken Britain is a term which has been used ...
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1answer
249 views

Is “Holy” in “Holy s**t” an intensifier or a euphemism?

I asked this question two days ago: Why is the word “Holy” used before swear words? I got many answers, but now I have a new doubt after reading all the answers and comments. For Example, one ...
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3answers
148 views

What really is a “Yester” in Yesterday or Yesteryear?

Apparently, Yester cannot be used alone in a sentence, except when accompanied by "day (yesterday) or year (yesteryear)". It cannot be used incombination with other portions of time like; yestermonth, ...
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2answers
64 views

Where did the word “yourn” originate?

"Yourn" as in yours. Where did it originate? I think from the southern US, but not sure.
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2answers
83 views

When did “lesbian” become well-known as a noun, not an adjective?

A friend asked me earlier why it was that "gay" is an adjective, but "lesbian" is a noun. I've been doing some searching online, because it's an interesting question. According to etymonline, ...
2
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3answers
61 views

Origin “Treat (somebody) like a dog”

Dogs are often considered as man's best friend. However, the aforementioned phrase has a certainly negative meaning. The same phrase exists in French as well. Other negative phrases with dogs ...
0
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1answer
51 views

to bar vs to debar

1. These words seem to mean the same, so what does the de- prefix mean? Did I overlook any nuances? 2. What's this phenomenon called, when a prefix or suffix affects nothing? Etymonline: 15c., ...
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4answers
5k views

Why is there an “a” in “beggar”? Why not an “e”?

Why does beggar end in -ar? Many identically sounding words just use -er, if not all. Examples: bumper pepper tagger chanter pegger They all use the -er version. Also, history shows that beggar ...
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4answers
78 views

The origin of the word “Breaker” referring to waves

I am trying to understand the history and etymology of the word breaker as it relates to ocean waves. I found a citation to the 1680s which ties it to "break" which dates to the Old English and the ...
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0answers
21 views

How did 'resent' evolve to connote negativity?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? to resent = Feel bitterness or indignation at (a circumstance, action, or person): Etymonline: ...
0
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2answers
45 views

Are new diseases without “Syndrome” in its name being added to English? [closed]

I can think of new syndromes being added to English in recent times. For example, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a syndrome, as is SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome). By contrast, ...