Tagged Questions

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

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0answers
26 views

What is the difference between “attitude” and “approach”?

Merriam-Webster gives the definitions of the words approach and attitude, respectively, as follows: Approach, noun: A way of dealing with something A way of doing or thinking about ...
0
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1answer
42 views

Fruitful? Fruitless? Fruitempty? Fruitmore?

I notice that the word fruitful's opposite is fruitless. It's kind of bizarre. Figuratively speaking, if the activity produces no fruit, it is fruit-less. But if it does produce fruit, shouldn't it ...
1
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2answers
25 views

Etymology of legal meaning of 'dispositive'

Since Prof. Eugene Volokh has observed its counterintuitiveness, what's an intuitive derivation? Prof. Eugene Volokh: One way of remembering this is by looking at the stem, which turns out to be ...
1
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0answers
48 views

“Mama had a baby and its head popped off” [on hold]

This is a short children's song prevalent throughout the U.S. at least during the early 1980s. I couldn't find anything conclusive w/r/t the etymology of the song, but perhaps my Google-fu is too ...
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1answer
40 views

Eytymology of the expression “Pissy Pants McGee.”

What is the origin of the expression "Pissy Pants McGee"? Thanks!
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0answers
22 views

How did “to derogate” evolve into 3 different definitions?

What are intuitive derivations behind the 3 (disparate) definitions? 1. derogate from = [no object] Detract from 2. derogate from = [no object] Deviate from 3. [with object] Disparage (someone ...
1
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1answer
62 views

What is the origin of “burning a hole in my pocket”?

It's an old expression, but when someone used it today it made me wonder about how the phrase came to mean what it does. Coinage would not seem to bear an association to being on fire, though if ...
5
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4answers
837 views

Silent letters in English [on hold]

With the help of dictionaries, I’ve assembled a list of letters that can be silent in English: For most letters, I found more than one example, what are the other examples of a silent z ...
2
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1answer
105 views

Why the word “Circle” doesn't start with “s”?

Today my daughter (goes to kindergarten) asked me this question which made me post here? I felt that was a good question. Can anyone help me with an answer?
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0answers
27 views

How does “to subsist in” evolve to mean “Be attributable to"?

What's an intuition derivation behind this definition of to subsist, but followed by in: 2.1 subsist in = Be attributable to mid 16th century (in the sense 'continue to exist'): from Latin ...
64
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10answers
8k views

Is “denigrate” a racist word? [on hold]

A few years ago I was told not to use that word because it comes from Latin denigratus, past participle of denigrare, which means to blacken. Therefore, when you get right down to it, "to denigrate ...
0
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1answer
58 views

What's the origin of the phrase “to be young and in love”?

What's the origin of the phrase "to be young and in love"? I speculate that it's a quote from something influential, but I can't find a source. Anyone know?
5
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2answers
246 views

Etymology of “plough back” meaning to reinvest

What is the etymology of the phrasal verb plough back which Macmillan Dictionary defines as plough back: to put any profits made by a business back into it in order to make it more successful ...
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1answer
42 views

The relationship between negative numbers and moral negatives

What is the origin of the analogy between numbers less than zero and bad things? This question just occurred to me. I have been using this analogy without thinking about its history.
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1answer
61 views

How did 'procure' evolve to mean 'cause' and 'obtain'? [on hold]

TL; DR: What's an intuitive, true derivation behind ODO's definitions (Abbreviated as dfns) 1 and 2 that helps to remember the meanings of procure? to procure = [with object] 1. Obtain ...
2
votes
2answers
94 views

Number of dots in an ellipsis

It might be an odd question, but I'm trying to comprehend why do we use three dots in an ellipsis. Wouldn't two dots suffice? An ellipsis serves a dual purpose, it can be used to either denote an ...
1
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2answers
86 views

There is any relation between “I'm fired” and “I'm on fire”? [closed]

I'm not english native speaker, and joking with a collague in my work we start a wordgame between "You are on fire?" "No, I'm fired". Because I'm spanish bachelor I want to know if there is any ...
0
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0answers
38 views

How to analyse/parse 'come what may'?

I already understand and so ask NOT about the definition, which I instead want to burrow into: come what may = No matter what happens Is this a case of anastrophe? Then come what may <= what ...
3
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3answers
74 views

What is the etymology of 'munge'?

My own brief investigation into the etymology of munge yielded the following entry from The New Hacker's Dictionary: [derogatory] To imperfectly transform information. A comprehensive ...
3
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1answer
121 views

United Kingdom's three-name-cities; is there a generic way to write them?

There are city names in the United Kingdom like "Stratford-upon-Avon" or "Newcastle upon Tyne". Then, I wonder: is there any general rule on how they should be written? Case: In general, I see the ...
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1answer
53 views

Where does the word “turkey baster” come from? [closed]

Does it have anything to do with a turkey? (A side question: how is it different from a spoid?)
3
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3answers
75 views

where does the expression “not to worry” come from?

I never heard the expression "not to worry" when I was young (I am 78 yrs old). Now i seem to hear it all the time. It sounds like a literal translation from some language where the infinitive is ...
2
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1answer
52 views

“In general,…”: do mathematicians use this phrase oppositely from everyone else?

In mathematical writings, one often encounters statements involving the phrase "in general" in the following sense: After the number 2, the next few prime numbers (3,5,7) are each odd numbers, and ...
5
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5answers
182 views

Was the blue screen of death ever just a blue screen?

Etymologically speaking, at least according to Wikipedia, the term Blue Screen of Death: originated during OS/2 pre-release development activities at Lattice Inc, the makers of an early Windows ...
1
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1answer
44 views

Is there a relation between the words “import” (trade) and “important” (valuable)?

Is there a relation between the words import (in a trade sense) and important (special, etc)? It seems to me that there is, or rather that there should be, but I was wondering if anyone can give some ...
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2answers
63 views

Origin of terms Passed Away and Deceased

I really dislike the expression “Passed away” and would like to know where it came from. I am not keen on “deceased” either. Died seems gentle enough. This from a Low Episcopalian.....
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0answers
34 views

How did 'wise' evolve from 'to know' to 'manner/extent'?

Please explain the relationship between the existent adjective wise and the archaic noun wise? Etymonline shows that the noun originated 'from the same source as wise (adj.)', but how does '"to ...
3
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3answers
80 views

What is the word - A secret that passes on from a person to person

I forgot this word. I tell a person a secret and ask him not to tell it to anyone else. That 2nd person tells another person and tells him not to disclose it to anyone else. But this goes on. ...
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0answers
21 views

How did 'hold' evolve into its more forceful legal meaning?

5.6. [with clause] (Of a judge or court) rule; decide When I first encountered this meaning, I thought that it only meant the connotations of 'to contain, grasp; retain; foster, cherish'. For ...
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2answers
58 views

Use of the phrase with abandon

I came across this phrase on Stack Overflow and I was a little confused as to its meaning: Every major browser now has a built in console which your would-be hacker can use with abandon... I ...
2
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2answers
994 views

When did dogs start “wagging” their tails?

An earlier question of mine What does a cat's tail do? got me thinking. When did dogs begin to wag their tails? And do any other animals wag? According to Google, very few books have ever been ...
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2answers
49 views

How to remember the terms for noun declensions?

I'm aware of the etymological fallacy, but would knowing the etymology of the following words help me understand them? I'm always confused as to which is which, and I need to consult a dictionary ...
1
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1answer
62 views

What is the origin of the term “crash hot”?

The term "crash hot" is often used in the negative, such as "I'm not feeling too crash hot today". I am trying to find out when the term was first used and why. I have used Internet search but have ...
0
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3answers
135 views

Why are there no male or female terms for cousins in English? [duplicate]

In general English doesn't seem to cater well for identifying relationships between people, and the classic example seems to be the term 'cousin' because you can't really work out whether it is ...
1
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2answers
115 views

What does “Picadillo” mean

I've heard expressions such as "He's had his picadillos" or "The Picadillos of his youth". But I can't seem to find any definitions on google (Maybe I'm just spelling it wrong? haha), only examples ...
2
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0answers
60 views

“must”: obligation x certainty. Which meaning developed first in the English language?

ORIGIN OF MUST - Middle English moste, from Old English mōste, past indicative & subjunctive of mōtan to be allowed to, have to; akin to Old High German muozan to be allowed to, have to First ...
2
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2answers
44 views

How did 'undertake' evolve to mean 'take on'?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning: undertake = [with object] 1. Commit oneself to and begin (an enterprise or responsibility); take on: ...
1
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0answers
25 views

How does 'together + to bear' cause 'confer' to mean 'grant something'? [closed]

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to remember its meaning? confer = 1. [with object] [with object] Grant (a title, degree, benefit, or right): Etymonline: ...
1
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1answer
137 views

words derived from French that have re-entered French from English

I am looking for a few examples of words that originated in French (or in Latin and then entered French), entered English and were reimported into French.
2
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1answer
54 views

Do *appraise* and *apprise* come from the same root?

I am interested in the origin and usage of apprise versus appraise. There is overlap in usage. In one meaning the latter can be substituted for the former and this is recognised in sense 4 in the ...
1
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2answers
83 views

What is the etymology of “first crack”

The meaning is "first chance", for example, "I gave my oldest son first crack at trying to fix the car"
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0answers
29 views

How does 'be' + 'of' combine to mean 'possess; give rise to'?

I already understand and thus ask NOT about the definition, but instead want to dredge below it: to be of = Possess intrinsically; give rise to How does the juxtaposition of these two 'Top 1000 ...
0
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1answer
28 views

What is the source of “set”, meaning balanced?

In the sport of rowing, a boat is "set" if it's balanced and doesn't wobble. It can also be used as a noun as in "We had good set this morning", or as a verb- "Set the boat, gosh darn it". I've found ...
1
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1answer
70 views

Origin of the expression “skin of a rhinoceros”?

The Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has recently published an open letter where he says: ... It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros. I am wondering where this expression "skin of a rhinoceros" is ...
0
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0answers
13 views

Real estate derivation [duplicate]

The derivation of "real" in the term "real estate". Can it be literal in describing parcels of land as distinguished from other appurtenances that was added or exists on the parcel? Could it mean ...
1
vote
0answers
71 views

Why does modern English only have one affirmative response? [closed]

I learned that nearly all Germanic languages have two affirmative responses, one of which answers a positively framed question and the other answer a negatively framed question. In modern English, ...
17
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3answers
586 views

The origins and usages of “waffle”

Scottish dogs used to waff American voters waffled in 2000 British politicians “waffle on” for hours And Swedish children eat them on March 25th Waffle nowadays has basically three meanings: ...
5
votes
1answer
104 views

What is the origin of the expression “the big picture”?

The expression the big picture, meaning "the entire perspective on a situation or issue", is very common today. Where does this phrase come from? Was there a literal big picture that it once ...
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2answers
101 views

Why does the word delight have positive connotations? [closed]

I'm sitting here, and hear someone respond to a request with "I'd be delighted". I understand the words to say this is a positive response along the lines of "sure, I'd be happy to help". But I'm ...
0
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3answers
72 views

Does 'invidious' imply hatred/malice for 'envy'? [closed]

invidious (adj) = (Of an action or situation) likely to arouse or incur resentment or anger in others Etymology: c.1600, from Latin invidiosus "full of envy, envious," from invidia "envy, ...