Tagged Questions

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

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0
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2answers
51 views

Is there a word for someone being both 'Spectator and Participant'?

I was wondering if there is a single word for someone being 'both spectator and participant', as in "In the grand scheme of universe I am just another identity who is both a spectator and a ...
10
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2answers
1k views

Why do we refer to car manufacturer as 'Make'?

When I first encountered it years ago, I was pretty sure it must be a mistake. Although I got used to it, it still does not feel right. What is the reason for that? Is it something specific to the ...
3
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2answers
120 views

How to say “Castile” [closed]

I am from Castile, NY. As far as I can tell it is the only town in the USA with that name. We say the name like /kae-STAI-ol/, but I am aware that many people pronounce it like /kae-STEEL/. The name ...
0
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2answers
117 views

Does syllabus derive from Greek or Latin?

I'm looking for some hard evidence to determine whether syllabus is a word that derives from Greek or Latin. This came about from a discussion asking whether the plural of syllabus is "syllabuses" or ...
12
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4answers
2k views

Is “Ur-moment” a normal English expression?

The New York Times article of this past July 29th titled, “The D.O. Is In Now: Osteopathic Schools Turn Out Nearly a Third of All Med School Grads,” features the growing popularity of the Touro ...
2
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2answers
117 views

Why do we say “in” a movie but “on” a TV show?

When referring to a television program, my experience tells me that it is proper to use “on” whether I’m referring to an actor on the show or events on the show or anything. Did you see Matt ...
7
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2answers
649 views

Last names that are English words with an extra 'e'

I noticed that there are a lot of last names that have an 'e' at the end. The pronunciation usually isn't changed from that of the base word. Poole Steele Browne Clarke Why do English words not ...
12
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10answers
4k views

What is the opposite of an Epiphany?

I think of an Epiphany as a "Eureka Moment" as in a goldminer crying out, "Eureka!" upon discovering a vein of gold (I'm a native Californian (and former resident of Eureka), so that example comes ...
2
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3answers
325 views

Origin of “name happened” form: from “s*** happens” via “magic happens”?

There’s a form in current English Then <X> happened or <X> happened, where you transition the name of a thing (a person, a fictitious character, or object), to mean the dramatic ...
2
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2answers
874 views

Origin of the expression “pull your finger out”

I've heard that "pull your finger out" came from muzzle loaded gunnery. One of the team firing the gun would put his finger in the hole during loading to prevent embers being ejected form the hole. ...
2
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1answer
169 views

What are the most common ways to say “die”, i.e. pass away? [closed]

It seems like my question was too broad to answer. I'm sorry for the inconvenience. I've edited my question a little. So, I would like to know what common terms I can use instead of the word "die." ...
7
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1answer
181 views

Where did we get “buster” as in “Look here, buster”?

Americans, at least, have for some time used buster in speech or dialogue as a generic form of address. It has a range of tonalities, from light to affectionate to grimly confrontational. Listen, ...
1
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1answer
194 views

Etymology of “throw good money after bad”?

The idiom "throwing good money after bad" refers to spending more money on something problematic that one has already spent money on, in the (presumably futile) hopes of fixing it or recouping one's ...
4
votes
3answers
375 views

Origin of British term “to bits”

British people sometimes use "love to bits" and "thrilled/chuffed to bits" to indicate extremes. Despite searching high and low, I could not find the origin of the phrase "to bits", other than ...
0
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2answers
116 views

Origin of “Arachnoleptic fit”

In various websites on the Internet, including http://www.joke-archives.com/dictionaries/dictionarywords.html, I've come across the phrase Arachnoleptic fit. Apparently all the words in that set ...
1
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2answers
104 views

What is the primary meaning of 'knocked up'

There seem to be several meanings; Awoken in the morning; Made pregnant; Put together/prepared quickly or on the fly; Made tired/worn out. I have never heard of this last meaning which (used earlier ...
-1
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1answer
60 views

Why is the OED's first reference to *irredentism* as late as 1886?

Irredentism (from the Italian irredento, 'unredeemed') has a first reference in the OED as late as 1886. Yet irredentism, the problem which had plagued European statesmen for generations was deeply at ...
7
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2answers
157 views

Where does “flying in the face” come from?

To "fly in the face of" something means to be opposite it, with a particular connotation that is hard to describe. Where does the expression come from?
3
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3answers
2k 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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3answers
3k views

What word can I use instead of “tomorrow” that is not connected with the idea of the rising sun?

I'm working on a novel while trying to take into account the historical context surrounding it. It begins in 1140 AD, so the characters would use Old English, Latin, Old French, and other similar ...
9
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2answers
1k views

Why is it “have someone wrapped around your LITTLE finger”?

I just had occasion to write she's got him wrapped around her finger (under complete control). I'd never really thought about this one before, but my guess would have been the idiom had some ...
3
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1answer
2k views

What is the origin of “go suck an egg”?

"Go suck an egg" is a saying typically used similarly to "take a hike" or "piss off": Hey, you going to help me with this or what? Go suck an egg. An few Ngram searches shows that "suck an ...
2
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1answer
122 views

“Nightmare” derivation

I did some research about word nightmare. In most cases this is what I've found: night + Old English mære "incubus." I would like to use the word mare for poetic purposes, but its meaning in ...
2
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3answers
659 views

Where does the slang word “bad” + “ass” (badass) come from?

What is the origin of the word badass? Why a "bad" ass/"bad" + "ass"? What is an ass that is bad and how can an ass that is bad describe a tough person?
2
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1answer
40 views

When did 'permission' become popular as a therapy term

Permission has several uses, but somewhere around the 1990s it became common to hear it in the context of therapy sessions as in "you need to give yourself permission to..." do this or that. When did ...
2
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2answers
85 views

“Stadiums” vs. “stadia” [duplicate]

I'm not that old, but when I was a child/teen, stadia was the common term. As in: Wembley, the Nou Camp, and the Santiago Bernabeu are football stadia. The MCG and Lord's are cricket stadia. ...
4
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1answer
85 views

How does the word “cardinal” relate to “cardinal numbers”

Cardinal number In linguistics, more precisely in traditional grammar, a cardinal number or cardinal numeral (or just cardinal) is a part of speech used to count, such as the English words ...
73
votes
2answers
6k views

Why is there no “autumntime” or “falltime”?

Why is "autumntime" (or "falltime") not a word? wintertime => sure springtime => fine summertime => lovely But apparently autumn/fall has no equivalent. Why?
1
vote
1answer
164 views

“So I told a porcupine…”

I heard this phrase spoken on a British TV show. It was obvious from context that it meant 'a little white lie'. How did this colloquialism arise? I have my own theory about about how this may have ...
8
votes
4answers
416 views

How did nominal come to mean “within acceptable tolerances”?

The word "nominal" has a number of definitions. For example, the Free Dictionary gives seven: nom·i·nal (nm-nl) adj. a. Of, resembling, relating to, or consisting of a name or names. ...
1
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2answers
165 views

Origin of New Jersey idiom “down the shore”

As a native Midwesterner, I was very puzzled to hear my wife (who is from northern New Jersey) use that idiom. I understand what it means, and as far as I can remember I understood what it meant from ...
1
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2answers
103 views

Does anyone know where “crack down” comes from?

There’s crack up, crack down, and crack on (?). I am curious about the origin of the phrase crack down. Also, what does it literally mean?
3
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2answers
202 views

What is the origin of “dox” and “doxing”?

Wikipedia has a solid description of what "doxing" is: Doxing is the Internet-based practice of researching and publishing personally identifiable information about an individual. They also make ...
2
votes
1answer
91 views

Etymology/Origin behind using “bitching” in a positive sense

Etymonline.com mentions this: bitch (v.) "to complain," attested at least from 1930, perhaps from the sense in bitchy, perhaps influenced by the verb meaning "to bungle, spoil," which is ...
1
vote
1answer
86 views

'equity' in finance

I'm not asking about its formal definition (a windy one here) or its general definition in English, the latter of which states: Stocks and shares that carry no fixed interest: Instead, I'm ...
2
votes
1answer
81 views

Why football and rugby clubs use “Racing Club” in their names?

There are many sport clubs with the name Racing Club of [town name]. It seems that Racing Club is an old name for clubs of runners. But I don't understand why is it used for football or rugby clubs ...
20
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7answers
6k views

Why are female wizards called “witches”?

I was looking up these two words in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: Wizard: Witch: It's mentioned in the Word Origin section that Wizard comes from "Wise", while for "Witch" it ...
2
votes
1answer
94 views

What's the original meaning of “Abraxis”?

Today I realized that I'd been running into the name 'Abraxis' in quite a few different places, and I didn't know what it meant. If it appeared once or twice as the name of a fictional character or a ...
1
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3answers
258 views

What is the origin of the phrase “knock-down, drag-out”?

I can find this phrase in a few dictionaries: knock-down, drag-out — marked by extreme violence or bitterness and by the showing of no mercy knock–down, drag–out political debates But I ...
0
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1answer
82 views

How to guess/divine definitions from etymology?

I've been using the word 'intuition' to characterise such questions, of which I've asked many, so I'd like to learn or be enlightened about the general methodology. Is there a formal term? ...
3
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0answers
52 views

How does “to subsist in” come to mean “to be attributed to”? [closed]

What's the logical derivation behind this definition of subsist [Definition 2.1] Be attributable to: the effect of genetic maldevelopment may subsist in chromosomal mutation In that link, the ...
2
votes
1answer
132 views

When did “sci-fi” become popular?

When did the term sci-fi come into usage?
2
votes
1answer
363 views

Why the ring finger is called the third finger?

I’ve long puzzled about why the ring finger is called third finger in spite of it being the forth finger from the thumb (counting the thumb as the first, the pointing finger the second, the middle ...
3
votes
2answers
389 views

Please explain the pronunciation of “indict.”

The word indict is not pronounced as it is spelled (big shocker in English, right?). It looks like it should be pronounced in-dikt, but it is pronounced in-dite. Why is it pronounced like this? Are ...
1
vote
1answer
212 views

Using “So” Followed by a Noun Phrase to Express Boredom, Disgust, Tediousness, Dullness, Banality

In the BBC TV series Sherlock’s episode two from series three, “The Empty Hearse", John Watson waxes maudlin over being left out of the loop for two years regarding Sherlock’s faked death. Sherlock ...
6
votes
1answer
260 views

How was the term 'payload' coined?

Wikipedia describes payload as, Payload is the carrying capacity of an aircraft or launch vehicle, usually measured in terms of weight. Etymonline says, payload 1930, from pay (n. or v.) + ...
4
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2answers
69 views

Why does “enjoy” (almost) not have a causative sense?

Its etymology confirms that the en- is the same prefix as in enshrine, encourage, encircle, etc., which would normally suggest a causative sense. But rather than "to give joy to", the predominant ...
2
votes
4answers
102 views

is “merablum” or “merablem” a word?

is there a word "merablum"? maybe "merablem"? It means scrap or remnant of food left on a plate. I always thought it was a word but I googled it and - nothing. Is Google unaware of it or is it a made ...
2
votes
1answer
225 views

What is the origin of “pretty” as slang for “somewhat”?

We now often hear phrases like: That's pretty interesting. The word "pretty" here is used to say "somewhat," "considerably/rather," or something along those lines (if a little stronger). ...
0
votes
1answer
94 views

Drinks Shirley - Slang for overhead dispenser? [closed]

In a TV series, a man from London (living in Canada) asked for the house bar using the word "Drinks Shirley". What does it mean exactly? Is it this kind of dispenser?