198 votes
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Why is "Pokémon" written with an accent?

The mark in question is an acute accent mark and is absolutely intended to mimic the native Japanese pronunciation, which itself is based on the English words "pocket monster". Because of English ...
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  • 1,424
169 votes
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What’s a “handegg”?

CBS Sports has this nice article explaining the origin of the word, including a newspaper snippet from 1909: “Hand-Egg,” Not Football. To the Editor of The New York Times: Football is certainly a ...
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  • 35.9k
165 votes
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Why is there paternal, for fatherly, fraternal, for brotherly, but no similar word for sons?

There is filial, from Latin filius "son" and filia "daughter". So filial love should work in most contexts.
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163 votes

Why is "Pokémon" written with an accent?

It's probably to indicate that the "e" is pronounced, not silent. The word "sake" (in the meaning of the Japanese rice wine) is sometimes spelt saké for that reason.
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  • 17.9k
139 votes
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What is "musset"?

The word musset was invented by the author (Gregory Maguire). Having replicated the OP's lack of success in finding any online definition of the word, I acted on a whim and sent an email to ask him. ...
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  • 3,024
128 votes
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Is "denigrate" a racist word?

I don't see why this question has received such negative responses. I think it's a good question. "Blacken" indeed has a trans-historical meaning associated with vilification or corruption, but this ...
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  • 2,986
123 votes

If cow = beef, pig = pork, and deer = venison, then where is the word for human = [flesh as food source]?

There be some as call it long pig.
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  • 18.6k
114 votes
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Etymology of *spreadsheet* / an anachronistic use

TL;DR The term spreadsheet was in use long before the software that now goes by that name. Etymology Ultimately, the word arose as a term of art in the printing industry. A spreadsheet is so named ...
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  • 28.5k
111 votes
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Why is there no "autumntime" or "falltime"?

The Anglo-Saxon calendar only had two seasons, winter and summer, each six months long. They had words for other periods of the year, but they weren't considered seasons. At some point near the ...
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106 votes
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Why is embassy spelled with E but ambassador with A?

In French, "amb-" and "emb-" sound the same In French, <am> and <em> in this kind of context came to represent the same sound (some kind of open nasal vowel; the ...
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  • 74.7k
102 votes
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How come people say “Would of”?

Correction: what annoys you is people writing “would of” when they are saying /ˈwʊdəv/, which is the standard pronunciation of the contraction would’ve. The vowel of the preposition “of” is almost ...
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  • 27.5k
100 votes
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Etymology of the use of "Drive" to refer to a digital storage medium

Originally, the drive was not the storage device. It was the mechanism that you mounted the storage device onto.¹ Spools of tape were mounted on the motor spindle of a tape drive, and disk packs and ...
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  • 27.8k
96 votes

What’s a “handegg”?

It's a football reference. The hat is a football helmet The football is egg-shaped and held in your hands A touchdown is worth 7 points (including the obligatory point-after-touchdown) From ...
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96 votes

If I farm, I'm a farmer. But if I guard, I'm a guard?

You can't drop what you never had. Guard (noun) according to the Oxford English Dictionary comes from: French garde, earlier also guarde (= Italian guarda, Spanish guarda) < Romance *guarda, < ...
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  • 58.7k
93 votes
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Why do we call it "combination lock"?

Because most people are not mathematicians. I know that sounds like a flippant answer, but it's genuinely the answer. There are many words which have a more precise (or even different) meaning for ...
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91 votes

Where does the expression "triple-A" come from?

Actually, the term 'AAA' for superior quality came from the bond market; since the nineteenth century, AAA has been the highest credit rating for a financial instrument. I would be suspicious of ...
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90 votes
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If we have a "second" of time, what's "first"?

The English word minute in the time sense (and the various similar European words) came from Latin 'pars minuta prima' or 'first small part'; when it became necessary to subdivide even further, the ...
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89 votes
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Etymology of a "pegged CPU"

Many analog gauges such as speedometers have a maximum marking which is technically not as high as you might be able to make the reading actually go. To prevent the indicator needle from going too ...
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85 votes
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Why do we refer to computers and other machines as being up or down?

The machine is up/down is an instantiation of a Metaphor Theme. English speakers (like all humans) are oriented vertically with respect to a gravitational field, so the UP/DOWN dimension is ...
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82 votes
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What is the word for reserving something for yourself before others do?

The word you're hearing is actually dibs: 2: claim, rights // I have dibs on that piece of cake Etymonline says it's a children's word to express a claim on something, 1915, originally U.S., ...
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  • 14.4k
78 votes
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Is it technically correct to call an almond drink "milk" in English?

English speakers have been calling white liquids “milk” since Old English. But please don’t drink spurge milk (i.e. its white, latex-like sap), since it’s poisonous: Wið weartan genim þysse ylcan ...
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  • 58.7k
77 votes
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Why is it "behead" and not "dehead"?

We didn’t use de-head be­cause we al­ready had a verb be­head by the time we start­ed us­ing de- to cre­ate verbs: be­head was a verb in Old English, be­héaf­di­an. So be­head was al­ready used long ...
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  • 128k
77 votes
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Why do Wh question words in English so consistently map to Q words in Latin?

Both sets of words come from a Proto-Indo-European root *kʷ(o)- that probably marked an interrogative pronoun. In the Germanic languages, Grimm's Law spirantized this *kʷ into /xw/ or /hw/, which ...
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77 votes
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What did "pop a cap" mean, other than "shoot someone," in the 19th century?

What is a cap anyways? A "cap", in the firearms sense, is the ignition source for the gunpowder. These were used in the days before firearms that used "modern" cartridges ...
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  • 26.9k
73 votes
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Should we refer to a female "senator" as a "senatrix"?

A number of answers have addressed the fact that in the United States, the use of gender-specific nouns is becoming less fashionable. However, that does not explain why a female equivalent of senator ...
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  • 838
72 votes

Has 'fat chance' always been used sarcastically or was it once a factual term?

I found a few early instances where the use seems to refer to a significant chance, or even an exorbitant or undeserved opportunity, but this intended meaning appears to be rare and was rapidly ...
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72 votes
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Why is a large shuriken sometimes called a "glaive"?

Origins It's almost certainly from the 1983 campy-classic movie Krull: Look more closely at the title art: There, on the right, you see it? The movie featured the five-bladed throwing weapon the ...
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  • 28.5k
69 votes
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Is the plural of 'prefix' really 'prefixes' rather than 'prefices'?

General principle: Latin plural forms go with Latin singular forms The plural of the Latin word matrix is matrices, and the plural of the Latin word index is indices. We took the singular forms of ...
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