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

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Etymology of Sleep like a Top

An explanation for the English expression "sleeping like (or as sound as) a top" is here. Apparently case closed. It derives from the Italian expression Ei dorme come un topo with topo being wrongly ...
10
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2answers
385 views

Can an English sentence have a 'dative subject'?

I have been thinking about this for a while. It seems to me that, sometimes, the subject plays a dative role in that it is the recipient of something. Take the following active sentence. He gave ...
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1answer
60 views

Etymology: to till the land

ODE gives a connection between the German verb zielen and the English preposition till. The semantic connection between cultivating land and German zielen seems a bit far-fetched. I would rather see a ...
4
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1answer
72 views

Where does the word (magic) cookie come from? [closed]

Who named the file that websites can place on your computer for, for example advertising, and what is the connection with cookie as a food?
5
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3answers
159 views

If a word is coined / popularized / used only or mainly by second-language speakers of English, is it still considered to be an English word?

It seems that there are quite a few terms that look like English and are used in English spoken by non-fluent or fluent but nonnative speakers of English as a second language amongst themselves, but ...
3
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3answers
524 views

What's the etymology of spam when talking about bulk unsolicited messages?

What does spam stand for, when talking about unsolicited (mostly advertisement) messages? The nearest possibility I found was "Stupid Pointless Annoying Messages" but it seems like too colorful to be ...
2
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3answers
62 views

Is the word 'psychoanalysis' correctly constructed from its components?

The big question is, where does the 'o' come from? A small band of people have apparently stuck firmly to 'psychanalysis', which is similar to the French 'psychanalyse'. It's dealt with very ...
2
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2answers
184 views

What is the origin of “I calls ’em like I sees ’em”?

This expression seems to be pretty widespread, for example being in Wiktionary and Futurama. Does anyone know what the origin is? Also, what kind of dialect might I calls or I sees be?
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2answers
106 views

Does hunx have an origin?

I was reading Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now. A character calls an old man, "an old hunx" during an argument. I was wondering if Trollope was writing in an accent or if hunx was an old slang ...
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3answers
121 views

How come “enemy mine” be a short version of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”?

I have found at several places (e.g., here) that Enemy mine is a short version for the proverb: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This makes little sense to me, as the essence of the ...
17
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3answers
3k views

Why “soft” drink?

Why are soft drinks, such as lemonade etc., called soft drinks?
2
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1answer
63 views

Etymology of term “Rubberbanding” (video games)

As long as I can remember, "rubberbanding" has been the way of the machine giving the computer an advantage when the player is leading in video games. For instance in Super Mario Kart, you are in the ...
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1answer
87 views

What is a bromide?

I just finished reading Ayn Rand's wonderful Fountainhead, but one point that escaped me was Rand's near-constant use of the word bromide to refer to something disappointing, or a "bummer" in the ...
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3answers
95 views

etymology: to get rid of

To get rid of something according to OALD means to make oneself free of someone or something that is annoying. One can get rid of old useless things by throwing them away or of bad habits. There is ...
2
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2answers
87 views

Origin of “off the meter” idiomatic phrase

When and how did the phrase "off the meter" become established as an idiom? Urban Dictionary defines "off the meter" as the condition of being "very good, awesome, great". I have heard and said it ...
2
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0answers
174 views

Is language inherently circular? [closed]

I looked up "Hallelujah" in etymonline.com today, and the result, as often happens with etymological research, ended in following a rabbit warren of possibilities. Take the word "Hallelujah" for ...
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3answers
2k views

Raper vs. Rapist; Why the shift in suffix?

I’ve always been vaguely aware of raper as an alternative to rapist, as a vaguely wrong sounding, possibly archaic formulation. Nowadays, it’s most often heard from speakers of English as a second ...
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2answers
125 views

Once bitten twice shy [closed]

What is the meaning and origin of the idiom 'once bitten twice shy'?
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2answers
55 views

Whistle-stop tour

I came across this phrase 'Whistle-stop tour' while reading an article. Please throw a light on it's origin and meaning.
3
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1answer
559 views

What is the history of “nil” in British football /soccer?

In British football if neither team scores a goal, the score is said to be: nil-nil or nil-nil draw. Curiously, the winning team's results are always spoken first. So if Arsenal are playing home the ...
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2answers
64 views

Should I wash my hands of this?

Should I wash my hands of this? Has this expression ever been used as a way of suggesting a bribe?
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1answer
101 views

Takeout vs Pickup, is there a difference?

A restaurant offers "Takeout or Pickup" and it appears the difference is that takeout are orders placed onsite to be consumed offsite, and pickup are orders placed offsite that are retrieved from ...
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2answers
169 views

Difference between 'crow's feet' and 'worry lines'

I came across the phrases 'crow's feet' and 'worry lines' several times. Please enlighten me about the origin of these two phrases and the difference between them.
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1answer
66 views

Etymology of progressive forms [duplicate]

In spite of English the German language does not have Present/Past Progressive, although both languages have the same root. When and why did the progressive tenses develop and became part of the ...
3
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1answer
49 views

Is William Blake's usage of “to break a net” idiomatic or metaphorical?

The following passage is from William Blake's 1793 work "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell": A man carried a monkey about for a shew, & because he was a little wiser than the monkey, grew vain, ...
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2answers
173 views

Origin of the noun-forming suffix “-hood”

How did -hood evolve into the noun-forming suffix commonly used in words such as childhood, priesthood, or neighborhood— and including certain pseudonyms such as robinhood which could easily be ...
2
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1answer
90 views

Origin of “nose out of joint”

I was watching a TED talk on cartoons in The New Yorker, and the presenter used an idiom I've never heard. But like I said, you cannot satisfy everyone. You couldn't satisfy this guy. ...
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485 views

Done and dusted

I came across the idiom 'Done and dusted'. I would like to know what is the origin and meaning of this idiom.
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1answer
102 views

Concessive “as much as” and “much as”. Which came first?

Related: "Much though" vs "much as", Use of 'Much as' [closed], Using “as much as” at start of sentence Consider the following two variations: As much as I hate to admit it, I cannot swim. ...
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1answer
94 views

Origins of “tie the knot”

A common symbol in modern weddings it the image of knot. The phrase "tie the knot" as a euphemism for marriage that is also commonly recognized. Where does this originate from?
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4answers
796 views

Antonym of selfie

I am looking for an antonym of selfie, meaning a photo/portrait of others. The ancient Greek word for self is like auto, and what I am looking for is an English word for hetero (its opposite). Do you ...
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1answer
97 views

What's the meaning and the origin of “skewer a sacred cow ?” [closed]

I've read this idom from an article, and it seems that the phrase "skewer a sacred cow" mean "to criticize" but I am not very sure. Does anyone know the exact meaning and the origin of this idom?
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3answers
53 views

Why do we use the term “and how”?

What is the literal and/or figurative meaning behind the term "and how"? Example: Boy 1: "The sun is boiling today." Boy 2: "And how!" I get HOW it's used, but can't seem to find any info on WHY ...
2
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1answer
120 views

The origin word “English”? Language that dominated the beginning of English existence? [closed]

I've read so many questions in ELL on the origin of English words. But I've never found the origin of the word English itself. I'm also curious about the history of English as a language. I mean, in ...
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4answers
556 views

Why “English” but not “Anglish”?

Etymology of English from Etymonline: Old English Englisc (contrasted to Denisc, Frencisce, etc.), from Engle (plural) "the Angles," the name of one of the Germanic groups that overran the island ...
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1answer
337 views

“An Ewt” to “A Newt”?

What is it called when English speakers, over a long period of time, start adding the letter "n" to the beginning of a word by accident, due to use of the article "an"? For instance, I read somewhere ...
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2answers
141 views

How did “yours truly” become a euphemism for “I” or “me”?

Rarely but occasionally I've seen yours truly appear in text when the author wishes to refer to him- or herself. An example from The Cambridge Dictionary: Some folks, such as yours truly, can't ...
2
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5answers
307 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. ...
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1answer
84 views

Etymology and meaning of the word “pizzled”

I heard of a term today called "pizzled" and am confused about it as there is a plethora of different definitions for the word. I first heard it in a speech by David Shing TNW Europe Conference. He ...
3
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1answer
99 views

Origin of “minibeasts”?

What is the origin of the term minibeasts? Growing up in the UK I never heard the term, but recently I have heard it prolifically used in preschool education and children's television programmes.
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2answers
237 views

Is the term “KTV” in use in any English-speaking country?

While travelling recently for two months in mainland China I noticed many buildings with the English letters KTV in their signage. At first I thought this was something to do with company names or ...
2
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1answer
67 views

The word “chemist” and its origins?

I know chemist means someone who sells medicines or drugs. However, we use physicist for someone who studies/researches physics, and so will anyone naturally understand. But it has always confused ...
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2answers
78 views

What is the origin of the word “What”?

Where does the word what come from? Why do we say wot when it's spelt the way it is?
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1answer
53 views

What is a bileue?

I was looking up the word "god" in the Oxford English Dictionary On-Line, which led me to this entry: d. the god of this world : the Devil, Satan. c1384 Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce ...
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5answers
626 views

What French phrase is the origin of “gardyloo?”

The word gardyloo is a warning cry uttered before throwing wastewater (literally and euphemistically) out of a window. Every source I've found has traced this word back to some French phrase ...
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1answer
589 views

How should I parse the name of the UK? [closed]

I've grown up in the UK and always considered that it is a United Kingdom of four countries: the three countries on the island of Great Britain and the country/province1 of Northern Ireland. ...
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2answers
72 views

Origin of “So much for that idea”

When a concept is found to be invalid, someone might say "so much for" it, which roughly means "I'm throwing this idea away." Does anyone know where the expression comes from?
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3answers
136 views

etymology of eavesdropping [closed]

there's this word eavesdropping or eavesdrop, which I looked over in oxford and several other places. the closest I got to understanding it was that it originated from an obsolete noun "eavesdrop", ...
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3answers
410 views

Etymology: the wings of a bird

I just read about the symbol of Venice, the winged lion of Venice. As a German the German word die Schwingen for wings came to my mind. English has the word in the verb to swing.The connection between ...
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2answers
69 views

Spendthrift vs Thrifty - origins

I have always been curious to understand the origin of these two seemingly similar words. Looking at them for the first time, I thought they were synonyms, but ever since I learnt their meanings, ...