6
votes
3answers
134 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. ...
4
votes
1answer
71 views

Can the term “G-Man” be used to describe a Government official who is not an FBI agent?

Earlier today I was doing Merl Reagle's crossword and one of the clues was "Fraud fighting Fed." The answer turned out to be "T-Man," being short for "Treasury Man." So, this got me thinking... ...
1
vote
1answer
70 views

Where does the term “hardware” in computer science comes from?

The term Software was coined in 195x. And it was opposed the term Hardware, physical part of a computer system, which is tangible. But where does the term Hardware comes from (from which of the ...
4
votes
1answer
71 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?
0
votes
1answer
98 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 ...
0
votes
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
votes
5answers
161 views

Why is “agnostic” pronounced “ag-gnostic” as opposed to “a-gnostic”?

Gnosticism, for example, is obviously not pronounced with a hard g. As far as I know the modern English use of agnostic is said to have originated with Thomas Huxley, who surely would have been aware ...
1
vote
1answer
355 views

Why is it called “slippery dick”?

No, no, it is not what you think! It is a poor fish called slippery dick: The slippery dick, Halichoeres bivittatus, is a species of wrasse native to shallow, tropical waters of the western ...
2
votes
1answer
203 views

What is the term used for people who drive slow?

I always heard terms like bikers, racers, car racers, which are specially used for the people who drives fast. But what do we call people who drive slow, or at normal speed, or very slow (for “senior ...
1
vote
5answers
2k views

What is the origin and meaning of “racing to a red light”?

During the third episode of the HBO show "True Detective" the following dialogue is exchanged: Cop 1: "Certain linguist anthropologists think that religion is a language virus that rewrites ...
5
votes
2answers
423 views

Why is it called a “bank balance”?

When describing how much money is in a bank account, we'll often say that the account "has a balance" of a certain amount, as in: Your bank balance is currently £13,550. Why do we describe this ...
28
votes
3answers
1k views

What does the fox say?

It is true that as a fox, I should know this, so consider this a spoilers warning. In a recent post, Geek Girl mentions that the mating call of the fox is a series of sharp, eerie barks and that this ...
0
votes
1answer
72 views

Etymology of sponge types

Sponges (Porifera) come in three body forms - asconoid (vase-shaped), syconoid (pleated vase), and leuconoid (network of chambers, like bath sponges). I was wondering what the etymology of these terms ...
0
votes
3answers
350 views

“He eyeballed me pensively”; using bodyparts as verbs

What are these words called, and why are they used in place of traditional verbs? For example: She handed me a pencil. [handed instead of gave] He eyeballed me pensively. [eyeballed instead ...
4
votes
3answers
187 views

What is the definition of “iat” in Commissariat/Secretariat

What is the definition of "iat" in Commissariat/Secretariat, also what are some other "iat" words. (Links, if you have any, please.)
9
votes
2answers
10k views

Meaning and etymology of “Hat-trick” and “Brace”

We all know that in the footballing world, when someone scores 3 goals, they call it a Hat-trick and when two, a Brace. I was wondering how these words are related to numbers 3 and 2? Is there any ...
6
votes
1answer
106 views

Etymology of “typeface Weight”

My boss stated that he noticed the word "weight" is used to refer to the boldness of a character, and stated that he felt this was a new occurrence. My gut feeling is that this is an old term, ...
4
votes
4answers
1k views

What is the origin of the word “whitewash” in the context of sports?

The term whitewash is used in sports to describe a situation where the opponents are beaten in a series of matches failing to register a single win. Merriam-Webster defines it as :- to hold (an ...
2
votes
3answers
180 views

What is the origin of the phrase “racing cert”?

I had encountered the phrase, “racing cert”, the other day, and I had to go look it up. The only definition I immediately found was one from UD: English colloquialism. Born from gambling talk and ...
7
votes
3answers
240 views

“He rolled his toilet things into his housewife”

From C.S. Forester's Hornblower and the Hotspur: [The naval captain] rolled his toilet things into his housewife and tied the tapes. ODO does provide a second definition for housewife which ...
3
votes
1answer
236 views

What do you call a past participle+noun construction clause such as “No offense meant” “Your point taken,” “With that said,” and “Given that”?

In reference to my question about the usage of “No offense meant/taken,” I noticed that there are a lot of shortened forms like “No offense meant/taken,” “Your point taken,” “That said,” and “Given ...
3
votes
5answers
2k views

Are camp followers prostitutes?

My own understanding of the term camp followers was that it was synonymous with prostitutes who followed armies around plying their trade. However, according to Wikipedia: Camp-follower is a term ...
9
votes
2answers
474 views

When did British and American crochet terms diverge?

In crochet basic stitches are called different things. For example a single crochet in America is called a double crochet in the UK, a double crochet in America is called a treble crochet in the UK, ...
9
votes
1answer
194 views

Origin of word “pad” in the mixing/recording industry

I ask this assuming there are enough people with experience with electric instruments, mixers, and other recording equipment to make this relevant. On any mixer, one of the first buttons that can be ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

What are the components of a word called?

The etymology of the word parasol states that it arises "from para- (“to shield”) + sole (“sun”)". I would like to know what the two components, para and sole, are called in this example. ...
6
votes
1answer
361 views

What is an 'Iron Ring Event'

In a recent podcast of .Net rocks (at 45 minutes 29 seconds), regarding the future of software craftsmanship, it is postulated that there will be an 'Iron Ring Event' (if I heard it correctly). From ...
5
votes
1answer
243 views

Etymology of “settee”?

I was reading Cochrane's Memoirs of a Fighting Captain when I came across this:- However, at 3.00pm, as a large settee was running into the mole of Ciotat, we discharged two shots at her, which ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Origin of the term “wizard” in computing

In computer user interfaces a "wizard" is a set of screens that guide the user through a process. Does anyone know the origin of this term? I personally associate wizards with magic more than a ...
3
votes
2answers
348 views

Why doesn't “campaign” have the meaning of “countryside” in English?

The English word campaign comes from the French word campagne, which has two basic meanings: battle, countryside. It seems that when this word came to English, only the "battle" meaning was kept ...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

When did “gay” become associated with homosexuality? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Gay (homosexual) and gay (happy) I'm curious if there's a definitive moment where the word "gay" started being applied to homosexuals. Was it a specific coining, or just ...
4
votes
1answer
862 views

Origin of “hike” in American football

Both Wikipedia and TheFreeDictionary list the term hike as an alternative term for snapping the football at the beginning of play. Where does it come from?
5
votes
2answers
352 views

History of use of the term “organism”

I have found that the term "organism" does not originate from any writings of Aristotle or some other ancient Greek, though Aristotle freely uses the term "organon", spelled "organ" in English, to ...
4
votes
2answers
272 views

What is the name of combination, in error, of similar or related words? (E.g.: segueway)

Is there a technical term for combination, in error, of similar or related words? This question is prompted by the following malapropism or solecism, from an article by Elizabeth Montalbano in ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Why does “air conditioning” always mean “cooling” and never “heating”?

For that matter, air conditioning could include humidifying or dehumidifying, but it doesn't: only cooling. Why weren't air conditioners called air coolers?
7
votes
2answers
938 views

Etymology of “binky” — three questions

Definition 2 of binky at wiktionary is "(rabbit behavior) A high hop that a rabbit may perform when happy." This definition is consistent with that at rabbitspeak, and not inconsistent with "A kind ...
5
votes
4answers
1k views

What's the origin of “beta” to describe a “user-testing” phase of computer development?

It occurred to me that I use the term "beta" to describe a "release candidate" of a computer product that has passed all expectations of the development team, and is now being given limited exposure ...
4
votes
2answers
5k views

Why do people use “mayday” and not “help”? [closed]

I’m not native English speaker, so I wonder why forces like policemen and firemen and such use Mayday instead of the simpler Help. What is origin of this habit?
2
votes
2answers
351 views

Where does the term “make sure” come from?

I was reading the Mac OS X Lion upgrade page, and it said "make sure" all over the place. It struck me as odd. Where does the term "make sure" come from? What are you making to be sure? Yourself? ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

How did the word “lid” come to mean “poor operator” (in the context of telegraphy and amateur radio)?

This sense of lid is still common today in Amateur ("Ham") Radio (in the United States, at least), usually as "they're a lid", meaning "they're being a rude or unobservant person." It doesn't refer to ...
25
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the origin of “daemon” with regards to computing?

Daemon has an interesting usage in computing. From my local dictionary: a background process that handles requests for services such as print spooling and file transfers, and is dormant when not ...
10
votes
6answers
989 views

Where does the term “Monad” come from?

I understand how monads work, and I use them on a routine basis. However, I've been wondering where the term actually comes from and what does it mean? Edit: To clarify, I'm specifically referring to ...
11
votes
4answers
4k views

Origins of the gaming term “cheese strategy”

In a gaming scene the word cheese is used to describe strategies or ways of playing that are really powerful and do not require much skill from the players side at the same time. The term is widely ...
0
votes
1answer
147 views

etymology of “positive economics”

Positive economics, that is, value-free theory, is contrasted with normative economics which is value-laden. What is the etymology of positive economics?
15
votes
4answers
10k views

Why is the term “depressed” often used to describe a button which is pressed?

In several books that mention GUI, keyboard, or mouse buttons (e.g. the book Programming Windows by Charles Petzold), the authors refer to the state of a pressed button as depressed. Why is this term ...
4
votes
4answers
3k views

Term for same root word but words with different meaning

Some words have the same etymology, root, but mean different things, such as mysterious and mystical. What are some other pairs (or more) that fall into this category, and what exactly is this ...
1
vote
5answers
4k views

Origin of “let's take it offline”

When did people start using the corporate jargon "let's take it offline" (let's discuss that after this meeting in private)? According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origin of online is from ...
6
votes
2answers
506 views

Etymology of “regression”

What is the etymology of "regression" as in finding the coefficients of polynomials?
11
votes
3answers
4k views

Why “motherboard” is used to refer to main board of computer

Why is motherboard used to refer to the main board of a computer? What is the relationship with the word mother here?
3
votes
5answers
603 views

What’s the etymology of the word “unstable”, in the context of software?

Approximately when in the history of computing did unstable come to be commonly used to refer to computer software? Can this time in history be linked to the release of a certain product (no jokes ...
0
votes
2answers
599 views

Why did ‘off-the-shelf' come to mean ‘in stock, ready-made, and easily available’?

I came across the word “off-the-shelf” in the following sentence of Time magazine’s article “The 50 Best Inventions of the Years (Nov.11 issue). He (inventor of the first synthetic cell) started with ...