Tagged Questions

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

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4
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3answers
699 views

The etymology of “redhead” vs. “ginger haired”

All my life I have known people with reddish, orangey hair, to be termed ginger haired. Just as you don't call a blonde a 'yellow head' red head just wasn't a word that was said (wouldn't orange head ...
10
votes
3answers
271 views

Why is the surname Gray more common than the surname Grey in the UK?

An EL&U question from 2010 asks Which is the correct spelling: "grey" or "gray"? The answers very sensibly point out the split between the UK and former British commonwealth ...
2
votes
1answer
65 views

Etymology of the “Chicago Seven” construction

There are many examples of a construction of the form "City + Number" used to refer to an incident involving a particular small group of people. It is often used when it is alleged that the people in ...
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0answers
44 views

Why are redheads called “gingers” when ginger is yellow? [duplicate]

The term "ginger" is often used as a slang term for someone with bright red hair. But ginger (the spice) is actually a bright yellow in color. Where does this term come from, then?
2
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3answers
203 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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2answers
43 views

How does 'to partake of' develop to mean 'be characterized by'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind definition 3, that helps to internalise its meaning: 3. partake of = Be characterized by (a quality) [ODO] 1. How does the etymology (listed in that ...
7
votes
1answer
154 views

Batman vs. Maxwell Smart. Who said, “Good thinking, …!” first?

Recently, I've come across the catchphrase, "Good thinking, [name/noun]!" three times on ELU. The first was in a question referring to Terry Pratchett's catchphrase "Good thinking, that man!" 1 The ...
1
vote
1answer
48 views

How does 'to obtain' develop to mean 'to prevail'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind definition 2 of obtain, that helps to internalise its meaning: 2. [no object] [formal] Be prevalent, customary, or established [ODO] How does the ...
0
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2answers
44 views

How does “to entail” develop to mean “involve (something) as an inevitable part”?

What's the logical derivation behind definition 1 of to entail: Involve (something) as a necessary or inevitable part or consequence: How does the etymology (listed in that link and here) ...
2
votes
1answer
33 views

How does “to consist in” develop to mean “to have as an essential feature”?

What's the logical derivation behind this definition of consist in [Definition 1.1]: have as an essential feature: How does the etymology (listed in that link and here) lead to the foregoing ...
26
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6answers
2k views

How did “stuck-up” get to mean “snob”?

I was inclined to believe that the expression "stuck-up", meaning staying aloof from others because one thinks one is superior, had its origins with somebody's nose stuck (up) in the air and yet, ...
1
vote
3answers
122 views

Is the phrase “awaiting customer” bad English?

In customer support software, issue tracking systems and the like, I frequently see a state titled awaiting customer to signify no action is required until the person (customer) who raised the issue ...
1
vote
0answers
48 views

What does it mean to drag something in “by the stamp?” [closed]

In a 1944 radio skit, Fibber McGee says another character dragged something in "by the stamp." Is the stamp a reference to rationing stamps used during WWII?
2
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2answers
401 views

What is the origin of “Pipped at the post”?

Why pipped? I guess that the post is to do with horse racing - as in the post was the finish line? I could be totally wrong there.
1
vote
1answer
59 views

ten versus teen [duplicate]

Why is it "teen" instead of ten? Where did the word "teen" originate? When you say "sixteen" you are obviously saying six and ten. How did it become six and teen? I already saw the post on "Why do ...
19
votes
7answers
735 views

Eww! Has it crossed the pond yet?

I hear eww (sometimes spelt as ew) fairly regularly on American sitcoms, usually uttered by a scatterbrained beautiful blonde girl when she sees or hears something disgusting. I don't recall it ever ...
0
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0answers
35 views

Oneteen, Twoteen, Threeteen, Fiveteen [duplicate]

I was wondering why we say eleven, twelve, thirteen and fifteen instead of oneteen, twoteen, threeteen and fiveteen? And where does "teen" come from? I would assume it derives from ten making me ...
1
vote
2answers
126 views

Why does 'threescore' mean sixty? [closed]

I wonder why threescore means sixty. I only found it means three times twenty, the math is correct, yet what link between twenty and "score" ?
2
votes
2answers
235 views

The words “objective” and “subjective”

We say subjective to indicate that something is based on feelings and opinions, and objective to indicate the opposite. Why are these the same words as objective and subjective referring, in grammar, ...
4
votes
3answers
291 views

Distinguishing between “opposites” of “ortho-”

There is a class of transformations in physics called "orthochronous", meaning that they preserve the direction of time's flow. ("Ortho-" from the Greek for 'straight' or 'right'?) As far as I am ...
0
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3answers
169 views

How come “wise man” and “wise guy” have opposite connotations?

wise man: a sage a wise and trusted guide and advisor wise guy: a smart aleck a person who is given to making conceited, sardonic, or insolent comments ...
16
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2answers
875 views

The U in “Glamour”

Why, in US English, does the word glamour retain its u while humour, neighbour, and others have shed it?
0
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2answers
331 views

“Sober as a judge” vs. “Drunk as a lord”. Why judge? Why lord?

Sober as a judge is a simile that is used for someone completely sober. Drunk as a lord is a simile that is used for someone completely drunk. Why is judge equated with sobriety and lord with ...
3
votes
1answer
99 views

Did “brushwoodsmen” exist?

While talking to someone about surnames and ties to various jobs in the past ("Coopers" worked on barrels, "Smiths" made things, etc.) I asked about "Brushwood". He said that name tied to ...
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2answers
112 views

Trans vs Transgender vs Transsexual

As I understand it, trans means "an individual whose gender identity is different than what they were designated at birth". However, I also hear the terms transgender and transsexual used for similar ...
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0answers
135 views

The antonym of Schadenfreude is “fribbly” - the joy in other people's joy. What is the origin of this new meaning?

For many years the word fribbly has been used, in various communities as the antonym of Schadenfreude. Rather than harm-joy or "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others". Fribbly is "Joy-Joy" ...
1
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1answer
736 views

Origin of “as all get out” meaning “to the utmost degree”

At reference.com, all get out is glossed as “in the extreme; to the utmost degree”, and at thefreedictionary.com as an unimaginably large amount; “British say ‘it rained like billyo’ where ...
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2answers
54 views

Origin of “go into hock” [closed]

We will have to go into hock to buy a house. What is the origin of the idiom?
22
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7answers
4k views

“Take a photo” — why “take”?

I don't understand why it's "take a photo". Why take? Is there any rule for this?
4
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2answers
259 views

Why does the word “tortilla” refer to three distinct types of edibles?

The crisps[BrEn]/chips[AmEn] that are made of corn (and probably not deep-fried) are called tortilla: The wraps with that special taste, are called tortila: And then, the omelet-like meal is ...
5
votes
2answers
105 views

Best etymological calque of the word Schadenfreude

This question is purely theoretical (i.e. I don't foresee actually trying to use the word), but using arguments based on etymology, as well as euphony and (least importantly) comprehensibility, what ...
1
vote
1answer
159 views

Can all verbs ending in “-ise” be written with the suffix “ize”? [closed]

Are there any "-ise" (or "-yse") words which cannot be (or are never) written using "-ize"? I searched for prior questions, and came across: Correct use of "ise" vs "ize" at the ...
2
votes
1answer
104 views

What determines the pronunciation of the prefix 'arch-'? [duplicate]

In the case of an archbishop, or archvillian it is pronounced arch. In the case of archetype, it is prounounced ark-e-type In the case of an archenemy I think you would say ark - enemy Is it simply ...
0
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0answers
36 views

Contrator, contractee… and disease?

On my security card at work is written "Contractor" in big, bold, capital letters. A thought just crossed my mind (as I work for a medical company): If I am the contractor, am I the one passing the ...
1
vote
1answer
132 views

What is the origin of the suffix: 'ship'? [duplicate]

What is the origin of the suffix: 'ship'? Why was it chosen to become as a suffix ? What made it special over other words like maybe 'cart' or 'rainbow' or something? ie friendSHIP might have ...
2
votes
2answers
174 views

What is a thorpe?

# is an octothorpe * is a hexathorpe + a quadrathorpe - a duothorpe but What is a thorpe??? This question came from an argument in comments on stackoverflow that started over an American calling ...
2
votes
1answer
85 views

What does the suffix -ling mean? [closed]

What does the suffix -ling mean. As in inkling...
0
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3answers
121 views

Etymology of “shagged [out]” (BrE exhausted, knackered)

I was intrigued by this comment to an earlier ELU post... [shagged out] Meaning 'very tired', presumably originating from having lots of sex but used generally to mean tired for whatever reason ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Dust vs. Undust?

The entry for "dust" from LDOCE says: dust1 (n.) [uncountable] → HOUSEHOLD dry powder consisting of extremely small bits of dirt that is in buildings on furniture, floors, etc. if they are ...
2
votes
3answers
283 views

What is the right description of the word “squeaky” in “squeaky clean”?

Is squeaky in "squeaky clean" an onomatopoeia? Is there a right word to describe this word, other than simply an "adjective"? It's something that uses the description of a sound as an adjective. ...
2
votes
2answers
245 views

Why does -istic turn some words negative?

The definition of -istic is: Used to form adjectives from nouns, especially nouns in -ist and -ism, with the meaning "of or pertaining to" said nouns. I don't see anything in there that could ...
2
votes
4answers
213 views

Difference between “encampment” and “camp”

I recently came across the term encampment. Although I could understand that the word must be very close related to camp, it bugs me that I don't understand why such a long word for the same thing ...
4
votes
1answer
97 views

Words with Gomorrah as etymon

The name of the city of Sodom is the etymon of sodomy. Question: Are there words in English for which Gomorrah is an etymon? According to Online Etymology Dictionary the unit omer is related to ...
1
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1answer
147 views

What is the origin of the phrase “bo selecta”?

The phrase means literally "good song" or "good DJ". selecta is the DJ ("the selector"). But why that spelling? And where does bo come from? Is it from the French beau or the Latin bona? Is there a ...
3
votes
1answer
76 views

When/by whom was the computing use of “agnostic” to mean independent coined?

Agnostic, as a term to refer to a particular philosophy with respect to spirituality and mysticism, was coined by Thomas Huxley; Wikipedia gives the date as 1869 while Wiktionary says 1870, but the ...
2
votes
2answers
72 views

Is there an historical thesaurus?

Is there something like a thesaurus that offers terms more often used in the past? For instance, I beg you would, in Shakespearean times, be prithee, while chicks during the 1920s would be dolls. ...
0
votes
1answer
89 views

Changes in meaning of “bad” and “bad ass” [duplicate]

How did the definition of bad change over time? When did it change to mean good?
8
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3answers
411 views

What is the origin of the “towards a new” used in the titles of some research articles?

Examples: "Towards a new agenda for transforming war economies" "Towards a new agenda for Japanese telecommunications" "Towards a new age in the treatment of multiple myeloma" As I mentioned in ...
-1
votes
1answer
56 views

etymology: drag (clothing)

I've seen conflicting accounts as the etymology of 'drag' (as in: drag queen). the first being acronymical of "Dressed as A Girl". the second as: One suggested etymological root is 19th-century ...
1
vote
2answers
474 views

what are the origins of hi, hey, hello?

What are the origins of hi, hey and hello? Are they related?