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

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Where did the expression “it's lonely at the top” come from?

Some variations of this are it's lonely at the top but you eat better and it's lonely at the top but the view is nice a look at google ngrams seems to suggest it started to pick up in the ...
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2answers
57 views

Why does the word “dodgeball” focus on the defensive skills instead of the offensive skills?

I'm a Dutch user, and in Dutch, dodgeball is called "trefbal" (literally hitball), referring to what the person with the ball is trying to do. In English, Dodgeball refers to the action that the ...
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5answers
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Origins of “turn over in his grave”?; “turn over in her grave”? etc., etc

The best result of my google-search for the origins of the idiomatic phrase, “turn over in the grave” was this, from wikipedia: One of the earliest uses is found in William Thackeray's 1849 work ...
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2answers
91 views

How to remember the 6 most common grammatical cases?

I heed the etymological fallacy, but how can I connect the etymology to cases' meanings or rationalise/make sense of these esoteric words? I'm always confused as to which is which, and I need to ...
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1answer
59 views

Is there an etymological relationship between “obvious” and “obviate” [closed]

It is obvious to me that the words are related, just by spelling. Yet, no dictionary I glanced though reveals the link. I guess that obvious is something that eliminates (obviates) the uncertainty. It ...
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6answers
410 views

Why does “smashing” mean “very good”?

Smashing is a BrE slang which means "very good" or "impressive". Most folks might know this already, due to its use as a catch phrase by various BrE characters in media. However, from the usual ...
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3answers
507 views

How did Persian words arrive in English?

Some Indian words which have entered modern English, such as 'bazaar' and 'cummerbund', are of Persian origin. So it seems they have completed a journey from Persia to Western India to present-day ...
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2answers
446 views

How long has “looney” been in use?

How long has looney been used as an abbreviation of lunatic? Is it a recent addition or something substantially older?
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5k views

Who, what, where, when, why, how. Why so many “Wh”s?

Journalists are taught to ask who, what, where, when, why, and how. If you answer all of these chances are you have the bones of a story. Why do all these words, with the exception of "how" start with ...
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2answers
28 views

what is the origin of the term travel [closed]

What is the origin of the term travel and how broad is the term travel? What is it intended to encompass?
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1answer
110 views

There's a pork chop in every beer, origin

I first heard this expression when, as a bartender, I asked a patron who'd ordered a pint if he wanted to see a menu. His response: "I'm all right, thanks. There's a pork chop in every beer." I've ...
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5answers
4k views

Origin of “tail over teakettle”?

"Tail over teakettle" is one of several similar phrases to describe a tumble or fall. But where/how did this originate? A few web searches give me pages where people use the phrase, and one of the ...
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4answers
9k views

What is the etymology of “Tough titty”

This is a phrase I've heard used on several occasions by different people. I'm interested about what it's origins are, and whether it should be considered rude. Essentially it means "That's tough ...
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6answers
9k views

What's the origin of “Copycat”?

I called one of my friends "copycat" the other day, and suddenly thought about it. Why is it a "cat"? Where did this expression come from? Does anyone have any information regarding how this phrase ...
2
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1answer
57 views

Can I be “friendfully yours” [closed]

friendly (advs). : Used to mean 'in a friendly manner. I am wondering if "friendfully" was/is in standard usage and would I sound primitive or ungrammatical if I dare write "friendfully yours" ...
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3answers
5k views

What's the origin of the figure of speech “call the shots”?

I'm well aware that when someone says "he's the one who calls the shots" it means that that person is the one in charge, the one who takes all the relevant decisions. But what's the origin of this ...
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5answers
2k views

Where did the adage, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” come from?

In connection with my questions about the meaning of Pope Francis’s, remarks - 'Who am I to judge?' / 'You can add more water to the beans'. I found the following statement in a New York Times (July ...
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6answers
776 views

Etymology of “cut someone some slack”

Teenagers. All the literature tells you one thing and one thing only – that whatever they are doing, give them a break, cut them some slack, it's normal. From the novel, Apple Tree Yard I'm ...
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4answers
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Conundrum: “cleverer” or “more clever”, “simpler” or “more simple” etc

I know the rule for making the comparative and superlative form for two-syllable words ending in y, replace the -y with i and use -er and -est: hap.py → happier → (the) happiest ti.dy → tidier → ...
2
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1answer
239 views

Why is “viva” pronounced `/ˈvaɪ.və/` in the academic sense?

Usually, (and intuitively), the word is pronounced /ˈviː.və/ or /ˈviː.vɑ/ However, I recently learned that in the academic context, the same term is pronounced /ˈvaɪ.və/. Why is this the case, and ...
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4answers
1k views

Does (or did) “a trouser” or “a scissor” have a meaning?

We say (a pair of) trousers, (a pair of) scissors. For these two particular words, is/was there something like "a trouser" or "a scissor"? Did it use to mean anything? E.g. in Czech, the word for ...
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4answers
16k views

“Shnide”? “Schneid”? Which is it and what's this term's origin?

"Getting off the shnide." (Obviously I'm not sure of the spelling.) It's an expression I hear almost exclusively in sports commentary to indicate a team has finally won a game after a protracted ...
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6answers
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Opposite word for “cursive”, as related to writing

I looked up the etymology entry at etymonline.com for cursive, which reads: 1784, from French cursif (18c.), from Medieval Latin cursivus “running,” from Latin cursus “a running,” from past ...
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2answers
163 views

Idiom: to be off the wall

When I come across idioms that are not transparent I try to find out what is behind such expressions. In the case of "to be off the wall" one does not see anything that might lead to the meaning ...
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4answers
114 views

How did 'sluice' evolve to have 2 distinct meanings?

What explains this word's opposing meanings? Can they be conciliated? I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, below which I want to burrow. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. ...
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5answers
16k views

Where does the phrase “fit to be tied” come from? Has its meaning become diluted?

While looking into an answer for "Sick and tied" and "sick and tired", I stumbled across the idiom fit to be tied which according to thefreedictionary means angry and agitated. (As ...
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1answer
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Position of stress in English words derived from New Latin

In another thread on this site a question was asked about the pronunciation of the word Caribbean; that discussion focused on the position of the accent. Cognate forms of the word Caribbean have ...
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1answer
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Is there any relation between “genius” and “ingenious”?

They seems to mean the same thing, yet when spoken they sound like the negative of each other. What's the secret behind those two words?
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1answer
73 views

What's the origin of the phrase “into the weeds”?

In(to) the weeds is a common way of saying there is unnecessary or too much information or detail about a particular subject. Where did this phrase come from?
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2answers
210 views

“Sport” vs “Sports” Origin

I was recently reading this article on the use of "math" vs. "maths" as a collective noun (Americans use the former, Brits the latter). However, the trend seen in "math/maths" is reversed in ...
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6answers
3k views

What is the “explicit”'s equivalent of “imply”?

Note: The original title of this question was "Why is 'exply' not a word? While considering the words implicit, implicate, and imply, it struck me that I can't think of an equivalent to imply for ...
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7answers
18k views

Why “sense of humour”?

I always had this question in my mind: Why people use the phrase "sense of humour" for the quality of being humorous and funny? The word sense suggests it is about perceiving and receiving something. ...
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4answers
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What is the origin of the phrase “There goes the neighborhood” and does it have racial connotations?

I understood the meaning of the phrase to be relatively benign and mostly used facetiously. Can it be viewed as offensive in contemporary conversation?
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1answer
57 views

what is the origin of the word “OK” [duplicate]

I'm trying to find out where does the word OK come from?
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4answers
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What does “fleek” mean and when was it first used?

The word fleek is all over Twitter. The @lovihatibot Twitterbot routinely finds it in searches for "I love the word [X]" and "I hate the word [X]", in fact it's the third most hated word over the ...
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7answers
392 views

What is the origin of the phrase “I'm game”

I'm trying to understand the origins of the phrase "I'm game". I understand how the phrase is used in everyday English, but what are the origins of this phrase? How did it come to imply a willingness ...
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1answer
30 views

Where did the idea of using X to mean 'Extra' first start?

It makes sense, but I'm curious as to how long ago it started and where.
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1answer
110 views

How and when did “bash” and “do” come to mean party?

I am on my way to a faculty party at the university. The Head of Sciences is retiring and is throwing a huge bash, all his staff, selected external examiners like me and various scientists from ...
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5answers
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Did the slang term “The Bomb” meaning “Very Cool” come from the American Jazz scene?

Searching Google for the history of the slang term "the bomb" (as in "That song is the bomb") yields a number of results in 40s/50s jazz glossaries, but they tend to at best give an artificial example ...
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1answer
55 views

Use and meaning of o between words in blends

First things first: I'm italian, so please apologize me for my poor english. While trying to create a name for a thing, I got curious by the question in the title. Many English words (new and old ...
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3answers
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What is the origin of the phrase “buck naked”?

The phrase buck naked is well known and means "completely naked". It is synonymous to butt naked and stark naked, both self-explanatory. However, there are a few confusing aspects to the etymology of ...
5
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1answer
187 views

“Tommyknockers”: why the “tommy” prefix in AmE?

From The Tommyknockers by Stephen King: Late last night and the night before, Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers, knocking at the door. I want to run, don't know if I can, 'cause I'm so afraid of ...
5
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2answers
663 views

Character vs Charm - Pronunciation

Is there a rule to understand how the group "Cha" has to be pronounced? "Character" sounds with a hard first syllable, while "Charm" sound softer, but I don't find how to tell which sound to use ...
4
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2answers
119 views

Is there an etymological relation between the words “exorcism” and “sorcery”?

I've been wondering for a while now whether the words "exorcism" and "sorcery" are related etymologically in any way. The question came to me from the fact that, in Greek, we have the word εξορκισμός ...
12
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2answers
2k views

Preventative vs. preventive

In this answer about the non-word disabilitated, the word preventative is compared (unfavourably, if my reading of the implication is correct) to preventive. However, I have always used preventative, ...
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1answer
46 views

How did 'deliverance' evolve to have 2 distinct meanings?

What's a derivation or rationalisation that helps to remember its meaning? I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, which I want to dredge below. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. ...
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3answers
43k views

What's the etymology of “when the sh*t hits the fan”?

Where did this come from? It makes no sense to me...why is the shit even near the fan?
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8answers
19k views

What is the origin of the phrase “when push comes to shove”?

"When push comes to shove" means "as a last resort" or "if absolutely necessary". Does anyone know why the phrase came to be used in this way?
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0answers
75 views

Is a syllable defined phonetically or etymologically?

Reading recent postings about syllables I've been struck and baffled by talk of the possibility that words may have a different number of syllables when they are written than when they are spoken. Is ...
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5answers
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What is the origin of being “in the pudding club”?

Being "in the pudding club" seems to mean "being pregnant" in British English. What is the origin/etymology of this phrase? Where is it used nowadays?