16
votes
2answers
812 views

The U in “Glamour”

Why, in US English, does the word glamour retain its u while humour, neighbour, and others have shed it?
72
votes
15answers
10k views

“Soccer mom”: why soccer?

...why not football mom, baseball mom, or basketball mom? Soccer mom, as far as I can tell, is an American term made popular during the 1996 presidential elections, used to describe a key demographic ...
2
votes
1answer
188 views

First use of the slang term “Scrub”?

The slang term "scrub", when referred to a person, can mean several things. It seems like the original usage as an adjective is someone who is not good at something - video games, sports, etc. I am ...
6
votes
3answers
381 views

What is the geographical origin of the idiom “be a fly on the wall”?

Does the following expression originate from English? I'd like to be a fly on the wall I discovered today that a similar expression exists in Brazilian Portuguese: "I'd like to be a fly" (with ...
2
votes
5answers
357 views

How does “spanner” come to mean “a wrench”?

"Wrenching" refers to an injury in which some muscle is forcibly twisted. A wrench is a tool that applies a twisting force to something, so that seems consistent. "To span" means to bridge a gap. ...
13
votes
7answers
612 views

Which is longer: snooze, nap, kip, 40 winks or siesta?

How long is a snooze? My boyfriend will invariable take an afternoon snooze which might last anything up to two hours. A nap on the other hand, can be short, quick or even long, and sometimes they are ...
9
votes
6answers
469 views

Why is the English devil “old”?

Looking up the etymology of the Devil's nickname, Old Nick, I came across this article in OUPblog written by Anatoly Liberman For some reason, devils, at least in English, are often called old: ...
1
vote
2answers
132 views

Etymological analysis of swearwords [closed]

I'm writing a thesis about the etymological analysis of swearwords (profanity) in the English language; that is, I need to compare British and American English regarding the etymology of their ...
7
votes
1answer
338 views

Why Are Introductory Classes Called “101”? [closed]

Many freshmen will kick off their college careers with courses like Psychology 101, English 101, or History 101. When and how did introductory classes get this special number?
1
vote
2answers
182 views

Talkies, Motion Pictures, Movies, Films and 3D Films

The term, talkies, i.e. talking pictures, I was surprised to learn was not coined in 1927, after the release of The Jazz Singer, but in 1913. The term is now obsolete whereas motion picture, meaning ...
4
votes
2answers
527 views

'-gate' as a suffix to coin words related to scandals and corruption cases

I noticed that for corrruption/scandals the usage of '-gate' suffix is pretty common, as we have recently seen with 'datagate' and before with 'watergate' Can anyone explain what the relation between ...
4
votes
2answers
236 views

What's the etymology of “humdinger”?

A humdinger is a remarkable or outstanding person or thing. The OED has it as originally US dating (as hum-dinger) from 1905, but says the origin is unknown. Where does the word humdinger come from? ...
3
votes
1answer
203 views

Where does “noogie” come from?

The OED says noogie means a "hard poke or grind with the knuckles, esp. on a person's head" with a first quotation from 1968. They say it was popularised by Saturday Night Live in the late 1970s but ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Where do “shenanigans” come from?

Shenanigans, or shenanigan, also with several variant spellings, can be dated to 1855 USA in both the OED and Etymonline, but the OED simply says "Origin obscure" and Etymonline throws a few guesses ...
22
votes
6answers
2k views

Phrase: “Colder than a witch’s kiss!”

The following was used in a radio broadcast (The Adventures of Harry Lime, 14th December 1951, episode 20 “An Old Moorish Custom”) as Harry was hit on the back of his head with a rifle butt by a giant ...
2
votes
1answer
216 views

Is “teen-ager” correct? Still used? Etymology?

I was reading an article in The New York Times published in 1990 and came across the spelling of teenager as 'teen-ager'; is this American spelling? Archaic? The young man, who often said he only ...
1
vote
1answer
192 views

Incorrectly transliterated foreign words that have been improved [closed]

Seeking a list of several foreign words (usually names, but any noun) that have been borrowed from other languages, but originally transliterated/pronounced incorrectly and are now being improved into ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

Do you know the meaning of the American idiom “pot calling the kettle black”?

I just want to conduct a research about this American idiom and how native American people use it. Can you guys answer my questions in the following orders? If you have better questions, I will be ...
2
votes
2answers
287 views

How widely used is the word “tush”

In my dialect of American English, the word "tush" or "tushy" is a dimminuitive of "rear end" (e.g., something you'd say about a baby, not as harsh as "butt" and a word you aren't ashamed to say to ...
3
votes
1answer
664 views

Why is there a difference in the adoption of “Kindergarten” in American and British English?

As someone living in the US, I've heard the term "Kindergarten" used quite frequently. However someone from the UK was mentioning to me that the term is really not used that much in British English. ...
3
votes
4answers
284 views

What is the history of the word “lobby”?

I would like to know if the word "lobby" would have been used in 1890s Georgia (United States) and to what exactly this word would have referred in that time.
3
votes
1answer
168 views

Origin of using “gets to”

As I was writing an email to someone today, at the end of the message in jest I wrote: Well, I best gets to workin’. After I wrote it I looked at the phrase I best gets to. It came to me as if ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

What is the connection between motherhood and apple pie?

I know the idiom motherhood and apple pie is used to denote some principles with which few disagree. But what is the connection between motherhood and apple pie? I am not very familiar with American ...
6
votes
3answers
498 views

Etymology of 'Pizzazz'

A question from December 2011 asked What is the social context of "pizzazz"?. I'm curious about the word's etymology. I checked some reference books, but they showed very little agreement ...
2
votes
1answer
256 views

“On Tap” in the Sense of “Coming Up”

Starting with the Fifth Edition (1936), seven generations of the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary have included (under the entry for tap) three definitions of "on tap," currently worded as ...
12
votes
1answer
800 views

What is the source of “Long time no see,” and when did it enter U.S. English?

A question from almost two years ago asked "In which countries is that “long time no see” greeting common?" The question drew a number of answers that were squarely on point, but also a couple that ...
1
vote
2answers
236 views

“Kamarka part” etymology? [closed]

I know of some people in south Arkansas and north Louisiana that use this phrase. An example of its use would be when you have almost used up something, you have reached the "kamarka part." I hear it ...
3
votes
2answers
349 views

When did the term 'get lost' first come to use?

I have established that this term is an American idiom. Does anyone know when it came to be popular use or was first used there?
4
votes
4answers
2k views

Do Americans use the term “garburator” or is there a better equivalent?

Is it obsolete to use the term garburator to refer to a garbage disposal unit in a kitchen? If it is, do we have a better term to replace it with? Also, what is the etymology of this word?
3
votes
1answer
201 views

“Tabled”, US vs UK [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the meaning of the expression “We can table this”? Here's an example snippet for some context. Ann had an idea. We tabled her idea. In the UK this means ...
3
votes
2answers
189 views

OED Appeals: Antedatings of “party animal”

The OED has made a public appeal for help in tracing the history of some English words, including: party animal noun earlier than 1982 When the OED added its entry for party animal, ...
6
votes
2answers
372 views

Meaning of “Y-o-u-u Tom!”

In the opening chapter of Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom's aunt Polly calls out to him in a rather peculiar fashion: She went to the open door and stood in it, and looked out among the ...
4
votes
1answer
170 views

What a pluperfect a##hole

From The Silence of the Lambs (1988): "Marilyn Sutter saw it upstairs. Chilton was blowing off about "The Search for Billy Rubin." Then he went to dinner with a television reporter. That's ...
7
votes
4answers
2k views

Different Meanings of 'Jumper' (Transatlantic embarassment)

I'm originally from Wales, now living in the USA, and as the cold weather is approaching I'm determined, this year, to start using the word sweater to describe the item of clothing I'm wearing, as ...
12
votes
4answers
10k views

Why does 'coed' only mean female coeducational students?

As an adjective, the word coed, short for coeducational, indicates an institution that teaches both males and females. However, as a noun, it can only mean "a young woman who attends college". Why is ...
6
votes
4answers
446 views

Origin of “Erry” (every)

I have noticed a trend in some rap music where erry replaces the word every (see 1:35 of "The Motto" by Drake). Can anyone shed light on the origins of this pronunciation? I thought it might trace to ...
9
votes
4answers
6k views

Why does “klick” mean kilometer in US military slang?

Wiktionary says it is either likely a pseudo-condensed pronunciation of kilometer or onomatopoeic of the sound of a military odometer. Though kilometers are not commonly used to measure distance ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

“Bust a cap” meaning and derivation

I've always believed that the phrase "bust a cap in yo ass" was AAVE for: To shoot an individual with a gun. Whilst trying to figure out what the cap actually meant, I ran into this alternate ...
5
votes
1answer
470 views

What does “state” in “State University” refer to? [closed]

There are many universities and colleges in the United States with names such as "... State University". The word state has many distinct meanings, but pertinent to this question are: government, ...
11
votes
1answer
6k views

Why is it called a semi-truck? Doesn’t “semi” mean “part”?

I was wondering why semi-trucks are called that. Doesn’t semi mean “part of”? A semi-truck is a whole truck if I ever saw one!
6
votes
1answer
367 views

What is an 'Iron Ring Event'

In a recent podcast of .Net rocks (at 45 minutes 29 seconds), regarding the future of software craftsmanship, it is postulated that there will be an 'Iron Ring Event' (if I heard it correctly). From ...
7
votes
9answers
3k views

“Skipping rope” vs. “jump rope”

Well it is summer time and I have to lose some weight so I have chosen the cardiovascular activity to do that jumping rope. While digging on some information I have asked myself a few questions: Why ...
13
votes
1answer
5k views

Trapezium/trapezoid — why are the US/UK definitions swapped around?

These are the US definitions... Trapezoid — a 4-sided flat shape with straight sides that has a pair of opposite sides parallel. Trapezium — a 4-sided flat shape with straight sides and NO parallel ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Convolve vs. convolute

I understand that for common usage these words have distinct meanings. However in mathematics there is a process called convolution, and sometimes you hear "you need to convolve X" and sometimes "you ...
7
votes
1answer
197 views

What are the correct spelling and regional distribution of “X, schmX” to indicate dismissiveness (e.g., “evidence, schmevidence”)?

There is a curious construct in American English in which a word is stated and then repeated with the prefix "schm-" or "shm-" in order to indicate the speaker's dismissive attitude toward a concern ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Why is it 'speaking'/'speech' instead of 'speeking'/'speech' or 'speaking'/'speach'?

Why is it speaking/speech instead of speeking/speech or speaking/speach?
4
votes
3answers
618 views

Usage and confusion on “geek” and “hipster”

Within the circle I regularly communicate with the meaning of these words is commonly understood: Geek - someone with an obsessive interest in one field. Hipster - someone who ironically apes geek ...
5
votes
3answers
481 views

The term 'vocal fry': where does it come from?

On a recent Language Log posting Vocal fry: "creeping in" or "still here"?, Mark Liberman discusses an (also) recent article about the phenomenon of 'vocal fry' and shows how it has been around for ...
0
votes
3answers
3k views

How did the use of “could of” and “should of” originate, and is it considered correct? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is “of” instead of “have” correct? It bothers me that so many people use could of, would of, should of instead of could've or could have, etc. For instance, I have seen ...
9
votes
3answers
486 views

Why are certain categories of words more likely to vary between British and American English?

There are certain groups of words that are much more likely to vary between British and American dialects of English. terms relating to cars, trains and roads (boot/trunk, bonnet/hood, ...