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Questions tagged [origin-unknown]

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

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8answers
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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 ...
7
votes
1answer
113 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
83 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? ...
25
votes
1answer
3k views

“-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 ...
3
votes
1answer
78 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
131 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 ...
4
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2answers
584 views

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 ...
9
votes
3answers
492 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....
4
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1answer
106 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 ...
14
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2answers
1k views

“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 ...
2
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2answers
3k 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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2answers
1k 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, ...
0
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0answers
977 views

Origin of the phrase “days of future past”

There is a notable X-Men storyline from 1981 titled "Days of Future Past". It feels to me like it's a reference to some earlier piece of literature, but I cannot find anything in particular. There is ...
1
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0answers
92 views

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 ...
0
votes
1answer
429 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 ...
9
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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 ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

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'. ...
9
votes
2answers
619 views

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," ...
6
votes
1answer
733 views

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 ...
4
votes
2answers
537 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
0
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5answers
874 views

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 ...
0
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1answer
5k views

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.
5
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4answers
620 views

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 ...
5
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1answer
1k 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 ...
3
votes
3answers
327 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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votes
1answer
185 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 ...
3
votes
4answers
2k views

“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 : ...
-1
votes
1answer
1k 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.
4
votes
4answers
129 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
10k 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 ...
0
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1answer
442 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?
3
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2answers
20k views

The origin of the phrase “Eskimo Brothers”

Popularized by the Fx show The League, the term Eskimo Brothers is a slightly misogynistic term for two men who have been physically intimate with the same woman. It is usually considered offensive, ...
15
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2answers
7k views

Why is a 'vulgar fraction' called 'vulgar'?

I am just wondering about the origins of the phrase 'vulgar fraction'. It is synonymous with 'common fraction' & 'simple fraction' and simply refers to any fraction of two integers (e.g.: 2/5). I ...
9
votes
2answers
6k views

What is the origin of “Judas gate”?

While reading the Jack Higgins novel “The Eagle Has Landed” (1975) I came across the phrase “Judas gate”. Research on-line indicates he is rather fond of the word, going to the point of naming another ...
2
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1answer
1k views

Origin of “Dj” in words

I've seen a couple of references to the combination of "Dj" as part of a word, normally in names, such as Django and Ramin Djawadi. Is the "Dj" always pronounced as a "J" and where is the origin from? ...
1
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1answer
557 views

Names with “The” in them [duplicate]

What's the term given to names with "The" in the middle of them, for example; "Robert The Red" or "James The Great"?
2
votes
2answers
426 views

“Well-rounded” usage in the United States

What’s the first recorded use of the term well-rounded as it refers to being competent or trained in several fields, e.g., from astronomy to literature to social dancing to cookery?
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2answers
2k views

How did an “arm” become a “mile”?

The common saying "give an inch and they'll take a mile" means: Make a small concession and they'll take advantage of you. For example, I told her she could borrow the car for one day and ...
2
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2answers
685 views

Do “empirical” and “imperial” share a common etymology? [closed]

Nothing more to my question, really. I just wonder if the words share an etymological root. Thanks.
6
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1answer
17k views

Etymology of “Devil-may-care”

I want to know about the origin of the compound adjective devil-may-care: Cheerful and reckless: light-hearted, devil-may-care young pilots All OED has is The exclamation devil may care! ...
12
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2answers
4k views

Origins of the word “mom” and “mother”

Apologies in advance for this question being only indirectly related to the English language, but I find it fascinating. I note with interest that the English words "mother" and "mama" have similar ...
7
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2answers
26k views

Origin of going “number 1” or “number 2” in the bathroom

I was wondering about the origin of using the terms "number one" and "number two" for going to the bathroom (for those unaware, number one is urinating, number two is defecating, at least in the US). ...
3
votes
3answers
611 views

Non-chess usage of “patzer”?

I've heard the word patzer used to describe an incompetent or amateurish chess player. Is it ever used in a non-chess context?
6
votes
2answers
6k views

Where does the word 'Simoleon' come from?

Simoleon is another word for money. si·mo·le·on /səˈmōlēən/ I once thought that the word Simoleon came from the popular PC game The Sims. However, recently I heard the word used in ...
7
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1answer
877 views

Origin and earliest recorded use of 'fungo'

In baseball, a fungo bat is, according to Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003), "a long thin bat used for hitting fungoes," and a fungo is either "a fly ball hit esp. for practice ...
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4answers
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Are there previous formulations of this quote from George R.R. Martin

I love this quote from George R.R. Martin — 'A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.' I just learned today of a similar formulation from St. Augustine -...
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2answers
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Early usage, you can take the boy out of the country

Regarding the common English form, You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy... (Meaning - "This boy remains a bucolic rube even though he moved from ...
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1answer
649 views

Does “killed the dog” mean flatulence?

I have been using this idiom as a synonym for "passing gas" ever since I heard it in the cult comedy classic, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. Here's the usage: Kung Pow: Killed the Dog I happened to say ...
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3answers
4k views

What is the origin of the phrase “triple threat”?

"Triple threat" means things in different contexts. For performers, it refers to someone who excels at acting, singing, and dancing. In basketball, it refers to a person who has the option to pass, ...