Questions tagged [origin-unknown]

Words and phrases whose origin is unknown or in serious dispute, according to reputable reference works.

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29 views

What is the independent and standalone meaning and origin of phrase “veiled grab”?

Reading thro' linked articles in Wikipedia, I have found a phrase, the definitive meaning or synonym of which, I haven't found, searching thro' online dictionaries. Though I am mentioning the example ...
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1answer
605 views

Origin of the saying “God must love the poor because he made so many of them”

The saying "God must love the poor [or the common people or the plain people] because he made so many of them" falls somewhere between a proverb and a famous quotation, but its origins are rather ...
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88 views

How did “itch” come to be used to mean “scratch” as in “I had to itch my leg”?

None of the regular sources list itch as a transitive verb meaning to scratch. Yet I hear it used that way in American English all the time. One of the British mods of this site says the usage occurs ...
3
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1answer
77 views

Etymology of “bilbo”

Here's what "bilbo" means - Bilbo noun (1) : a long bar of iron with sliding shackles used to confine the feet of prisoners especially on shipboard. noun (2) : ...
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4answers
238 views

Etymology of “doodah”

Here's what "doodah" means - Doodah : used to refer to something that the speaker cannot name precisely. "From the poshest potpourri to the humblest dangly doodah." Basic research ...
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What is the origin of the word “geroff”?

I am not a native speaker so never had a chance to meet the term in the wild, and only seen it in Harry Potter series mostly used by Ron Weasley. My somewhat corrupted mind assumed it being a ...
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2k views

Etymology of “banjax”

Here's what "banjax" means - Banjax : ruin, incapacitate, or break. "He banjaxed his knee in the sixth game of the season." Basic research showed that it comes from the 1930s - ...
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3answers
560 views

Why do Australians and NZers call snacks/lunch *crib*?

From another question I found out that Australians and New Zealanders call lunch and snacks crib. On the Macquarie dictionary site, there are several (user contributed) theories about why, but ...
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517 views

What is the origin of the phrase, “That’s for me to know and you to find out”?

I was just watching the preview for Blue Velvet (1986) and heard Kyle McLachlan use the phrase: “That’s for me to know, and you to find out”. I assume the phrase is probably older than that movie, ...
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1answer
158 views

Is bludgeon connected with blood or block?

Bludgeon is a short, heavy club which is thicker or loaded at one end. Both OED and Etymonline say "origin unknown". There are possible Cornish, Celtic, Dutch, cant, Middle French, Irish and Gaelic ...
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504 views

How to spell what sounds like “ish” or “eesh”? [duplicate]

I've heard this word a lot of times, but still don't know how to write it down. It's used when you want to show some kind of disgust, or something like that. It sounds like "ish" or "eesh". I've ...
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When did Monkeys start making wrenches?

Why is the pipe wrench often called a monkey wrench? From the Ferris State University Jim Crow Museum website… Q: Did Jack Johnson invent the wrench? A: Jack Johnson, the first Black ...
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Is “snitty” a popular American English term? What is its origin?

I came to know the word, “snitty” for the first time from the remark of Mr. William Barr during his testimony on his way of handling of Mueller Report in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Washington ...
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57 views

Un-sunken or equivalent

What is the word for something that didn't sink. Example: Can we say "the un-sunken boat" for the boat didn't sink? Couldn't find anything in internet by search engines. Thanks.
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859 views

In search of the origins of term censor, I hit a dead end stuck with the greek term, to censor, λογοκρίνω

I have been looking in OED for a history that makes sense, yet, I just find crumbs, and I can not piece the history of this term. I am hitting a dead end researching the greek term to censor, named ...
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644 views

The etymology of “snooze”

I was looking up the etymology of the word snooze, and the Etymology Online suggested it was unknown. 1789, cant word, of unknown origin, perhaps echoic of a snore. Related: Snoozed; snoozing. ...
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144 views

Is a 'Protagonist' really a thing or is it a misnomer derived from it's opposite 'Antagonist'? [closed]

I ask because in anatomy and fitness the muscle groups can defined in three categories for a given workout: Agonist (the main muscle being worked), Antagonist (the muscle group that would work the ...
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121 views

How do you parse “hair do”

Is "do" understood as a noun or verb in "hair do"? Asking this in search of "to make do". Bonus points if it can be related to German Tolle "tuft [of hair], that thing that Elvis had on his head", ...
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2answers
571 views

“Tinkle contest with a skunk”

What does the following idiom mean: "Tinkle contest with a skunk". And where was this idiom first used ? Does anybody know the origin?? Example: Yesterday, in an unsuccessful attempt to discuss ...
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Origin, meaning, and derivation of 'boof' as a verb in U.S. slang

Recently, the following entry included in a page from a 1983 yearbook for a high school in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area has gained considerable notoriety in U.S. politics: Judge — Have ...
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1answer
423 views

What connection (if any) is there in Australian slang between 'dinkum' and 'dink' (meaning a ride on bicycle handlebars)?

In an answer to the recent question, What is the American equivalent of a "backie"? site participant Chappo notes that in Australia the word dink is sometimes used as a noun to mean "a lift ...
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1answer
244 views

When and where was the word “backup” used in this form for the first time?

What is the etymology of the word "backup" (in the meaning of "a file copy" in computing)? I can't find the origin and the first using of this word in this very meaning. Why is "backup" so called? ...
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1answer
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“-ia” in country names

Many countries have "land" in the end of it. like England, Poland, Switzerland, etc. which means the land of the English, the land of the Swiss, etc. Many other countries have "stan" in the end of it ...
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1answer
178 views

Origin of “surf”

I was thinking of the song Hawaii by The Beach Boys (which most of you probably do not know) when I came across the lyrics They'll hold the Surfing Championship of the year Surfer ...
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1answer
545 views

Origin of “curse”

I am reading a Harry Potter book and came across the word "curse". I realized I had no idea what the origin of "curse" was. I searched it up and below are my search results. of uncertain origin ...
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Origin of the word “jack” to mean theft or to steal

This is my very first query/post. I was attempting to find out the history in American slang for using the word jack to mean theft. In a sentence it might be Someone jacked my bike last night. I had ...
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901 views

What is the origin of 'fuddy-duddy'?

I was surprised to find that the EL&U spellchecker refused 'fuddy-duddy' and was disappointed not to find any further information in the EL&U archives, so I branched out on my own. Phrases....
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1answer
299 views

Does 'doolally' have an alternate AmE meaning to the BrE?

The meaning of 'doolally' and 'doolally tap' originating from the Indian town of Deolali ('tap' being a reference to tapa, the Sanskrit word for fever) have been well documented on EL&U. But a ...
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“legal beagle” vs. “legal eagle”

Both legal beagle and legal eagle are informal terms for a smart, eagle-eyed attorney or lawyer. Someone who is a stickler for the rules, and who thrives on the minutiae of the law. Oxford ...
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2answers
7k views

Why does “tar” mean “thank you”? [duplicate]

I was wondering on where the origins of the word tar to mean thank you came from. I have reached tar and have come up with this definition Tar is a dark brown or black viscous liquid of ...
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3k views

What is the origin of the phrase “bad blood”?

I recently met someone who used this in the following way: ...you know I want to keep a good relationship with them. I told them I don't want any bad blood between us. I'd never heard this before, ...
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Financial Use of Word : SECURITY

To be a man of better literate in Finance, learning some basic concepts regarding financial assets. One seemingly quite confusing is, the concept of "Security" When people think of security, it is ...
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1answer
616 views

What's the origin of “if it's worth writing, it's worth rewriting”? [closed]

I'm sure someone famous and wise once said, about writing either prose or software source code, that: If it's worth writing, it's worth re-writing. meaning that one shouldn't avoid going ahead and ...
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4answers
1k views

What is the origin of the use of “bung” as a bribe

'Bung' has a few uses in English. It is a stopper of a bottle. It to throw. But also it is a bribe or enticement. The word bung seems to have become less popular over time (after a staggering peak ...
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What is the origin of the expression “riding a hobby horse”?

I am curious about the origin of the expression of a "riding" a "hobby horse" (or "stick horse", as it is in Danish — we have the exact same expression) as an idiom for a 'pet topic' or 'fixed idea'. ...
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When was the term “Web site” (or “website”) first used?

I've been researching the origins of the World Wide Web, so basically sifting through CERN reports and Usenet posts from 1989-1993, but I've noticed that the terms "Web site," "website," "web-site," ...
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Origin and Etymology of Kush/Cush in regards to animals

I came across this word in this YouTube video (queued to example) and was curious about the origin. Example image of an alpaca kushing. I can't find the definition as defined in the linked image in ...
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2answers
1k views

Origin and history of “spinning jenny”

The origin of spinning jenny (the cotton-spinning machine invented by James Hargreaves) always seemed to me to be named after a person called Jenny. However, as I was reading Etymology for Everyone by ...
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1answer
4k views

What is the origin of the idiom/phrase “Heroes never die”?

I've been bothered by some guy on my online gaming server that kept spamming the phrase "Heroes never die" for quite some time during last weekend before he was banned. To clear my mind of this ...
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5answers
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What is the origin of the term “library” (in programming sense)?

If you talk about a library to any computer programmer today, the image they will most likely conjure up is of some software package, a body of helpful and reusable functions they can link and call to ...
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2answers
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What is the origin of the quote, “You can satisfy some of the people all the time…"?

"...and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot satisfy all of the people all the time”? I have seen it attributed to John Lydgate, Abe Lincoln and PT Barnum.
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What is the origin of “bend the rules”?

A while ago, I read somewhere that the origin of bend the rules is attributed to a tool called lesbian rule ............................. To adjust to arbitrary curved shapes a flexible rule ...
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1answer
2k views

Where does the word “humbug” originally come from?

This question reveals the history of the peppermint sweet's name, but does not elabourate on how the word was first formed. At first glance, it would seem to be a portmanteau or the like just from ...
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603 views

What are the origin and history of the forms and meanings of the phrase “top flight”?

As used in the following sentence: Another trick a lot of top-flight engineers use is clipping the signal before the limiter, to reduce the work the limiter has to do to peaks.
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229 views

what does effei mean, and where is it from?

I'm not a native English speaker, but i think you'll understand me. I've recently seen a billboard that had a word like "effei" in it, so I googled it. The effei seems to stand for European Federation ...
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4answers
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“youse” as a plural second person pronoun

The 'official' plural second person pronoun in English is you. There are several ways in English to manufacture plural you, one of which is youse. According to etymonline.com youse is a : ...
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1answer
2k views

What does “on his ear” mean, and where does it come from? [closed]

What is the origin and meaning of the idiomatic expression on his ear? I have found a modern definition but am searching for the origin of this idiom.
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4answers
147 views

Origin of “darkest Brooklyn”

I'm wondering about the origin of the phrase "darkest Brooklyn". I imagine it is meant to suggest unexplored wilderness and perhaps also primitive social conditions. I've found a citation from the ...
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2answers
16k views

What is the origin and meaning of the term “Butt Buddies”? [closed]

Today, in the midst of chatting on other SE sites, the term "bum buddies" was used. Some other users took this to be offensive, saying that it was just a slightly less egregious version of "butt ...
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1answer
671 views

Origin of name “Posting on a Horse”

It started with mail carriers on horses, but not sure if Postal carriers were the first to name Posting on a Horse. Who develop and name it?