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Discussion in 'Evolution of Language' started by Ken Anderson, Jan 22, 2015.
Something I discovered recently was that the word 'muscle' derives from the Latin musculus, meaning 'small mouse.' Now, mice are not renowned for being muscular, but the shape of certain muscles was thought to resemble mice and that was how the word came about.
Have you ever wondered how a grapefruit came to be called a grapefruit since, other than its shape, which is shares with most other fruits, a grapefruit is very dissimilar to the fruit known as a grape.
When the word first appeared, John Lunan, who authored a botanical book about Jamaica in 1814, wrote, "There is a variety known by the name of grape-fruit, on account of its resemblance in flavour to the grape; this fruit is not near so large as the shaddock."
Either the grapefruits of 1814 were very different than today, or Mr. Lunan had never actually tasted one.
The grapefruit first appeared in the West Indies in the 1700s, as a natural cross between the pummelo and the orange. The pummelo, also known as pompelmoose (Dutch), is the same fruit that Mr. Lunan referred to as a shaddock, as it was named for Captain Shaddock of the East India Company, who brought it to the West Indies from the Malay archipelago in the late 1600s. The grapefruit was first described, accurately, by the Reverend Griffith Hughes, after which it was called the forbidden fruit by those who were looking for the identity of the original tree of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, a previous candidate being the banana.
The grapefruit was called that because it grows in small bunches that someone thought looked a little bit like a clump of grapes when they were still small and green. Adding even more confusion, the pummelo is sometimes synonymous with the pomelo, a name that some had reserved for the grapefruit.
Words and their meanings and how they came to be used in common parlance is always interesting. I will sometimes look at word origins in the dictionary. I think any living, breathing language continues to evolve and there are new words that are being added all the time. It is interesting how much of our language we have borrowed from other cultures and other places in the world.
How did "evening" get its name? Do things even out at night? How about "morning," for that matter; do we mourn the passing of the previous day?
The Modern English words "morning" and "tomorrow" began in Middle English as morwening, developing into morwen, then morwe, and eventually morrow. English, unlike some other languages, has separate terms for "morning" and "tomorrow", despite their common root. Other languages, like Spanish and German, may use a single word – mañana and Morgen, respectively – to signify both "morning" and "tomorrow"
I was once told that the movement of the muscles of the forearm beneath the skin resembled the movement of a mouse under a piece of cloth. Don't know if that is the basis, but that came from an old college professor of mine.
There is a theory that the word was derived from General Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker, a Union officer during the American Civil War who was not particularly popular and had been described as a conniver, carouser, womanizer, and a drunk. His headquarters was described as being a combination of a bar and a brothel, in which no decent woman would go. It was further said that troops under his command frequented prostitutes and that a red light district in Washington, DC became known as "Hooker's Division," and this was the origins of the word.
However, the word is known to have been in use before the Civil War. It was listed in the 1859 edition of John Russell Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms. In 1835, the New York Transcript published a report of a court hearing in which a woman of ill repute was referred to as a "hooker" because she "hangs around the hook," apparently a reference to Corlear's Hook, an area of New York in which there were houses of ill repute, which may have been the origins of the word.
Others suggest even earlier origins, as British low slang for a thief who snatches items using a hook, the implication being that the hooker catches her clients by similar, but less tangible, methods.
Several explanations for the origins of this word to describe a policeman have been advanced, including that it was an acronym for "constable on patrol" or "constabulary of police." Others suggest that it was a reference to the copper badges that were carried by New York City's first police sergeants, or to the copper buttons on the coats of London police force of the 1820s.
It may also have come from the slang verb cop, meaning "to seize, which was originally a dialect term of northern England, which by the start of the 19th century was known throughout England. The origins of this word can be traced through the French caper to the Latin capere, "to seize, take," from which we also get the word capture. There is also the Dutch kapen, "to take or steal."
In 1846 Britain, there is a record of the word copper being used to refer to someone who seizes malefactors, which probably gets us closer to the use of cop to refer to a policeman.
He that cops what isn't his'n,
Will be copped and put to prison.
-- 1850s children's rhyme
I don't know if any of you are left-handed, as I don't think it's come up yet. One of my brothers is left-handed and when he wrote, his arm would be contorted in a weird way. The rest of us referred to it as wrong-handed. Although this was a joke, of course, being left-handed was not always a joke. In some places and times, I think people were burned at the stake for being left-handed.
The word left comes from the Old English lyft, which meant "weak." For most people, the left hand was the weaker hand. The English word sinister doesn't carry that definition but in the Latin, it referred to the left hand.
In the political context, left refers to the liberal side of the political spectrum because, in continental systems, this was the side of the Assembly Chamber where the liberal or democratic members of the Assembly sat, as viewed from the president's chair. Although the US Senate and, by tradition, the House, uses an opposite arrangement, we still tend to refer to Democrats as being the left and Republicans as being the right.
Years ago, I read the autobiography of Clinton Truman Duffy, one of San Quentin state prison's wardens who said in his book that the term "off the wall" came from his prison in the early part of the 20th century.
He wrote that inmates who could not afford to buy cigarettes were allowed to have what amounted to charity tobacco.
The quality and character of the charity tobacco were derided by inmates, and was said to be unpredictable in flavor and strength, given that it was essentially leftover leaves.
That tobacco hung in sacks from hooks on the wall behind the station where the guards were posted. The inmate would ask for "off the wall tobacco," and the guard would dole out some tobacco to him.
The prisoners, he said, were wont to call eccentric inmates, tasteless food, or bizarre behavior "off the wall."
I've read conjectures as to where it originated, but his rings the most true.
The term "You Don't Know Jack" began some time before I first heard it in high school in the 1950's.
It has since been cleaned up, originally stated as "You don't know Jack's Sh*t in a Barrel", eventually becoming "You don't know Jack's Sh*t", and finally becoming "You don't know Jack", which robbed it of all its colorful usage.
Old Jewish word for 'You get what you say'.............
Because of the use of this word, I always wondered if a magicians cape idea originally came from the Elijah's mantle (cape) and the magic wand from Aaron's rod.