Word Origins

Discussion in 'Evolution of Language' started by Ken Anderson, Jan 22, 2015.

  1. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    One phrase that has two opposing camps arguing its origins is "Cheap at half the price." Taken literally, it makes little sense - if something were half price, then it's reasonable to assume that it would be cheap.

    One camp argues that the meaning is ironic; that what is intended is, in fact, that the item in question is ludicrously expensive.

    The other side argues that the expression originates from medieval times, "cheap" (or "cheep") meaning not price but goods. Thus, goods at half price.

    One phrase, two opposing meanings. Take your pick!
     
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  2. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    hell on wheels

    Many of you will know the origins of this one, as it's been played up in movies, including a very good television series by that name, but those of you who are from other countries may not be aware of it. During the construction of the railroad through to the West Coast of the United States, particularly the Union Pacific Railroad, in the mid to late 1800s, towns were established along the way, where railroad workers would live, and where supplies were collected until the railroad moved on to the next place. Many of these towns were temporary, while others remained as railroad depots or watering points, some of the buildings were physically moved on to the next railroad terminus, and some were not even taken off the railcar, but simply remained on a siding until it was time to move on.

    These towns were largely inhabited by construction gangs living in boxcars, liquor dealers and saloon keepers, gamblers, prostitutes and other camp followers, and because there was not yet any established law in these territories, these towns were wild and lawless, the only law being that of the railroad, which was concerned only with its own interests.

    Due to their violent nature and largely to the fact that so many of the buildings that made up these towns were temporary, often literally remaining on wheels, they became known as hell on wheels, a term that was sometimes used as a label for any vice-ridden, lawless town in the Wild West, and later began to be applied derisively to men who assumed underserved superiority.
     
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  3. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    slave

    Before the Christian era, not much was known of the people who lived north of the Carpathian Mountains, in the region that now includes Poland and the surrounding area. The names of a few tribes were mentioned by some Roman and Greek historians, but no one is known to have traveled to and from these lands, and no military expeditions were launched. By the 6th Century AD, the northern tribes along the Baltic began pressing to the west against their more warlike neighbors, the Germans, along the banks of the Elbe. The Germans called them Sclavs.

    In the conflicts that followed, the Germans found these people no match for their own military might, and they took many of them captive. Some of the captives were sold into serfdom to Roman and Greek buyers to the south, while others were held in bondage by the Germans. In time, nearly the entire population known (by the Germans) as the Sclavs were in bondage, and Sclav or Sclave became a term of contempt that was applied to anyone who was in bondage. When the word came into English usage, it retained the initial scl- until the 16th Century, when it began to appear as slave.
     
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  4. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    In Old French, esclave, meaning a Slav.

    The same root gives us the names of the country Slovenia and the region of Slavonia, now part of Croatia.
     
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  5. Jennifer Graves

    Jennifer Graves Active Member
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    I had no idea! I guess I always assumed it was a reference to some sort of war machines, (or my husband's driving). I love this thread! I learn something new everytime I open it up
     
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  6. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    For aficionados of this kind of thing (and I'm bordering on the obsessive when it comes to etymology), this is a wonderful journey around words and phrases of contentious origin:

    519reepH75L._SX305_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg #

    Myths debunked by the page...and, of course, in the title.

    A general rule: if somebody tells you that a word or phrase derives from an acronym, they're usually wrong. Unless it's scuba or radar.
     
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  7. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    That looks interesting, @Tom Locke. I've ordered a copy, as well as another of his books.
     
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  8. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    While I was well aware of the word "maverick," I was completely unaware of its origins. The term was, originally, used to denote an animal (particularly a calf) without an owner's brand. The word derived from one Samuel Maverick, a 19th-century Texas rancher who chose not to brand his cattle.
     
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  9. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    The English language is comprised of words from all sorts of origins - Greek, Latin, Saxon, Old French and many more. One source that we sometimes overlook is Hindi. There are some, like gymkhana for example, that have an obvious Indian derivation. Others may be more surprising:

    Bangle
    Bungalow ("a house in the Bengal style")
    Cheetah
    Loot
    Pundit
    Pyjamas (I know it's spelled differently in the US, but the word is the same)
    Shampoo
    Thug

    There are other slang terms in English like cushy (easy, comfortable) that derive from Hindi and the military slang term blighty (home country) also comes from that language.
     
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  10. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    The word "cravat" has its origins in the wearing of ties by a Croatian cavalry regiment in the service of the French in the 17th century. The Croatian name for the country is Hrvatska and October 18th is Cravat Day. So any time that you put on a tie, it's all thanks to the Croats.
     
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  11. Sheldon Scott

    Sheldon Scott Veteran Member
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    One days a group of hippy cave men were sitting around the fire eating berrys and wild boar. Suddenly, for no reason, a cave hippy named Bur Zurk jumped up and screamed, threw his food in the fire and started ranting and raving. The other cave hippys said whoa man what's the matter but Bur Zurt wouldn't say. Bur Zurk then ran from the cave, screaming, and throwing a fit. Friends ran after him saying whoa man, come back and smoke some of these weeds to calm you down.
    Since that day a word has been used to describe someone who throws a screaming fit for no apparent reason.

    Although the spelling has changed over the years we still use that word today. The word is:















    Whoa Man
     
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  12. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    Another source from which we have acquired several words is the indigenous people of Australia. Not surprisingly, many of the names of mammals and birds, such as kangaroo, wallaby and kookaburra are those used by Aborigines. One or two other may be slightly more surprising.

    When we attract someone's attention by calling out "Cooee!" we are following the call of Aboriginal hunters, who used the call to keep in touch with their friends in dense bush. If somebody yabbers a lot, then they are a talkative person and if we undertake a lot of hard yakka, then we are doing some hard work. If we go about that work willy-nilly, we are referring back to another Aborigine word, that for a whirlwind that produces a dust storm.

    Finally, fans of Kylie Minogue - or indeed anyone else - might like to know that a 'kylie' is a kind of throwing stick or, to apply another Aboriginal name, a boomerang.
     
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  13. Ina I. Wonder

    Ina I. Wonder Very Well-Known Member
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    Buffoon

    1. A person who amuses others by tricks, jokes, odd gestures and postures, ect.

    2. A person given to coarse or undignified joking.

    Origin: 1540-50, earier buffon < French < Italian buffone, equivalent to buff- (expressive base, compare buffa puff of breath, buffare to puff, puff up one's checks) + -one agent suffix << Latin -O, accusative -Onem

    Related forms:
    Verb = buffoonery
    Adjective = buffoonish

    Synonyms = antic, bozo, clown, comedian, comic, fool, and jester are just a few.
     
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  14. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
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    The word kidnap, has been kidnapped by the newspapers.:eek:
     
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  15. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    Here's a couple of memes that I made for Facebook at couple of years ago.

    nickel.jpg

    salary.jpg
     
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