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The Critique Crypt => General writing chat => Topic started by: Ed on February 09, 2007, 07:04:12 PM



Title: Origins
Post by: Ed on February 09, 2007, 07:04:12 PM
Every so often the origin of a common word or phrase becomes apparent - these everyday English words sometimes have their roots in other languages and cultures, and others tell of our history.  For instance, we all know the phrase 'learning the ropes', but few of us guess that it's a nautical thing - each of the sails on a sailing ship had its own set of ropes, and sailors had to know which was which, so their first job onboard was to 'learn the ropes' of the ship.  Who would guess the word 'pyjamas' (pajamas, if you're American) is actually an Indian word that we borrowed? 

I think language is fascinating, and I thought it might be interesting to have a thread where we could post the meaning/origin of words and phrases as we find them out.

Another one I recently stumbled upon, while reading 'The Liar' by Stephen Fry, was the word 'poppycock'.  Believe it or not, it means 'soft shit', or 'pappy cack' in Dutch. :grin:  Poppycock, I say!  True.  Soft shit.  Lovely. :/

Another one from the same source - the chess term 'check mate' originates in Arabic - 'shah mat' meaning 'king dead'.  Cool, huh?  So does the word 'mat', as in 'rug', originate from a time when your fur rug still had its head attached?  Dunno about that one, but it's an interesting thought, isn't it? :smiley:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Walker on February 09, 2007, 08:15:33 PM
Cool idea for a thread. Here's another one.
Being Canadian, we have a term that we often use-- too often-- especially this time of year. "It's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey." It's changed a wee bit over time and now we often just say, "better bring in the brass monkey."
Here's the explanation I was given when I was younger, as to its meaning:
'It has often been claimed that the "brass monkey" was a holder or storage rack in which cannon balls (or shot) were stacked on a ship. Supposedly when the "monkey" with its stack of cannon ball became cold, the contraction of iron cannon balls led to the balls falling through or off of the "monkey." This explanation appears to be a legend of the sea without historical justification.'

It appears that this isn't entirely true, but after a phrase catches on there's no stopping it. Still in popular use today.


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: neilmarr on February 10, 2007, 03:29:57 AM
Highly recommended is Michael Quinion's www.worldwidewords.com. It's free to sign up for his regular Saturday morning newsletter. Fascinating stuff from one of the most respected word-and-phrase researchers around today. Have fun. Neil


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on February 10, 2007, 05:12:07 AM
Brass monkey balls are often discussed here, too, Walker - I've no idea where the saying originates, but toppling cannon balls seems as good an explanation as any :afro:

Neil - thanks for the link.  It's an interesting site; I learned the true meaning of 'gadzooks' there (oft used by Prince Philip, apparently).  BTW, it's a .org instead of a .com - www.worldwidewords.org   :smiley:

Which reminds me of the phrase 'keeping you on tenterhooks'.  Tenterhooks was the name given to the hooks used in linen production - after the cloth had been dyed, it was stretched out to dry, suspended on tenterhooks, and 'kept hanging' until dry.


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: neilmarr on February 11, 2007, 03:11:47 AM
***Brass monkey balls***

That one's pretty simple to explain, Ed. The *monkey* (as it was called) was a brass triangle fixed on shipdecks to hold a pyramid of canonballs. The holding triangle was brass, the canonballs, iron. In low temperatures, brass contracts more quickly than iron, so the canonballs would spill out of their brass frame ... that's when it was *cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.* Hoots. Neil

PS: Many word and phrase origins are more obscure than this and urban legends build up around them (POSH, for instance). Mike Quinion put us all right on these a couple of years ago in his fascinating *Port Out Starboard Home*. It has a different title in the USA, and I can;t remember it off hand.  A superb piece of work. N


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on February 17, 2007, 03:06:04 PM
Another one that came to mind today is 'sling your hook' - slang for 'go away'.  I believe the expression comes from naval terminology again, from a time when the Brits used to board other vessels by slinging a grappling hook across and then swinging over, which would be a pretty quick exit, I suppose :grin:

Incidentally, the word 'slang' is short for 'secret language', too :afro:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on February 18, 2007, 07:50:18 AM
Carnival, when literally translated from old Italian (carne vale), means 'flesh farewell', and originates from the practice of using up leftovers before Lent - feasting and partying.  Around the same time as Shrove Tuesday.

Similarly: As Santhere says somewhere else on the forum, chilli con carne takes on a different complexion once you realise it means nothing more salubrious than the literal 'chilli with meat'.


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Geoff_N on February 18, 2007, 01:51:21 PM
I take unexpected pleasure in discovering that the origins of some common sayings are different to what most believe. For example when we say a house is Jerry-built, the assumption is that Jerry refers to Germans. An understandable slur against that nation in wartime. However, the more likely derivation relates to the Liverpool house-building firm of Jerry Bros, who in the 1800s build badly constructed dwellings.

Geoff


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on February 28, 2007, 03:52:17 PM
Dunno if it's true, but I remember being told the origin of the word 'crap' is in the shortening of Thomas Crapper's name - the guy who reportedly made a popular brand of flushing toilets.  They were apparently marketed as 'crappers' :grin:

On another note - my wife started some pottery classes again, today, and was introduced to the pugging machine. The lady giving her the guided tour said that the previous, older pugging machine was called 'the stupid' - a name that supposedly went way back, hundreds of years, given to the machine and the worker, because it didn't take a lot of smarts to work the thing.  When my wife told me this, I thought I'd look up the word 'stupid', to see if I could find any clues to the word's origin.  Turns out I found references to the word 'muddy', but nothing conclusively pointing at clay production.

Incidentally, while looking into 'stupid', I found 'tonto', which gave me a laugh, because 'tonto' turns out to be the Spanish word for 'idiot'.  So the Lone Ranger's sidekick was apparently named 'idiot' :grin:  The Lone Ranger and Idiot ride again - hi-ho Silver, away! :ugly:  Next I'll no doubt find 'kimosabe' means 'fuckface' :grin:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on May 25, 2007, 07:46:55 PM
Heard of a 'rule of thumb'?  :huh:

In Britain, up until 1853, it was perfectly legal for a man to beat his wife if he decided she needed a good 'ard slap. He was also entitled to use a stick, if he so wished, as long as the stick was no wider than his thumb :afro:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on May 25, 2007, 07:57:25 PM
Oh, and another one I heard of the other day...

Avast! Ye swabs. The old pirate cry. Well, it originates in the Dutch language as 'hou vast', meaning 'hold fast', or stand your ground, desist, pack it in, etc.

I think I'll try it out on the kids tomorrow. It'll probably work, too - they'll think I've finally lost it. And I very nearly have after being awoken at six AM the past two mornings by guitar 'music' :batterup:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: SharonBell on May 26, 2007, 09:13:59 AM
Hmmm...methinks it's time to institute the no-noise-before-9-am-on-the-weekend-or-Dad's-gonna-beat-the-crapper-out-of-you rule.  :dead_horse:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on May 26, 2007, 03:05:22 PM
No, there's a simple approach that doesn't involve corporal punishment. I hid both guitars in my wardrobe before retiring last night, and as my second line of defence was fitting myself with earplugs before going to sleep. As a result, I slept until twenty to nine this morning - what a result :afro: Shame I awoke with a sore throat :/ I'm about due a cold, though. Haven't had one in ages. I get far fewer since packing in smoking.


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Geoff_N on May 27, 2007, 05:24:00 AM
We're woken at 4 am each morning by one of the neighbour's Akita Shepherd dogs. He's howling because it's mum can't be bothered any more, but wants a barking session to announce the presence of the milkman. The milkman has only one house to deliver to in our crescent - a new chap who moved in two months ago. Before then no one had milk delivered; so no barking, and sleep until at least 6:30 when the paper boy delivers. Several of my neighbours have been working on the new chap - I suggested he tries soya milk, while others point out how cheap the local supermarket milk is. Other less savoury contingency plans are afoot. We have the makings of an interesting horror story, but the damn thing is true...

The dog owners sleep through it all.

Geoff


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: SharonBell on May 27, 2007, 08:09:10 AM
Of course they sleep through! They have earplugs and white noise machines.... :cool:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Geoff_N on May 28, 2007, 01:45:59 PM
Of course they sleep through! They have earplugs and white noise machines.... :cool:
We tried that but slept through our own alarms.

I think we have to find a horrible death for the cowjuice drinker.



Title: Re: Origins
Post by: SharonBell on May 28, 2007, 06:31:57 PM
Spike his milk.  :evil:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Geoff_N on May 29, 2007, 04:09:02 AM
Spike his milk.  :evil:

Good plan. I know a student who works at the dairy on whom I hold an embarrassing confidence, and she both hates her boss and is desperate for beefed-up grades ;)


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: SharonBell on May 30, 2007, 03:59:16 AM
Mooooovelous!  :grin: A curdling idea! :cheesy:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Geoff_N on May 30, 2007, 06:27:17 AM
When I have some spare moments I'll write it up. I believe we had a thread in here on humorous horror.

Maybe the police won't take it so seriously when it actually happens then...


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: SharonBell on May 30, 2007, 06:53:01 AM
Oh, yes, good idea!  :afro:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on December 22, 2007, 06:24:05 PM
I was driving along today when I spotted a Toyota MR2 - famously pronounced 'merde' in French - which most people know means 'shit' in English. Anyhoo, that started me thinking the word 'merde' sounds a fair bit like 'mud' if you say it with a French accent. So now I'm wondering if 'merde's the origin of the word 'mud', or vice versa :scratch: I wonder how one would find out.


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: PaulH on December 27, 2007, 06:41:56 PM
How about this for the motto of the French Navy:

To the sea, it is the hour.

Or in French,

A l'eau, c'est l'heure.


Go on, say it out loud...


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: joneastwood on December 27, 2007, 06:50:22 PM
nice   :D
took me a minute though..


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on June 27, 2008, 06:53:31 AM
Stumbled across another one a minute ago. I was looking for the antonym for 'paradise' for use in a story I'm currently writing, and it turns out there isn't a direct opposite, other than the rather unimaginative 'hell'.

But...

I ended up learning a couple of things I didn't know before, thanks to dictionary.com:

Quote
The history of paradise is an extreme example of amelioration :shocked: , the process by which a word comes to refer to something better than what it used to refer to. The old Iranian language Avestan had a noun pairidaēza-, "a wall enclosing a garden or orchard," which is composed of pairi-, "around," and daēza- "wall."

So it turns out that 'paradise' is quite literally 'a walled garden'. And we actually have a word for a word that means something better than what it originally did :huh:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: delboy on June 27, 2008, 08:58:13 AM
Quote
Stumbled across another one a minute ago. I was looking for the antonym for 'paradise' for use in a story I'm currently writing, and it turns out there isn't a direct opposite, other than the rather unimaginative 'hell'.

Which maybe is where Hull gets it's name from..?


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: JonP on June 27, 2008, 12:25:30 PM
I'm sure there's a folk song that has the refrain "From Hull and Halifax and Hell, Good Lord deliver me".


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on June 27, 2008, 01:02:30 PM
Sounds like something Morrissey would write. My personal favourite of his is, "Sweetness, I was only joking when I said by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed." :grin:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Geoff_N on June 27, 2008, 02:29:42 PM
It came from the 17th Century. And its origins are interesting

"The so-called Beggar’s Litany has been explained in the Crowther’s Encyclopaedia of Phrases and Origins, 1945 ed., thus:  “From Hull, Hell, and Halifax good Lord deliver us; and it might well be so, for in Hull in those days was so well governed in vagrancy laws, that beggars had little chance of acquiring sustenance by begging without doing hard labour for it; and anyone caught stealing property to the value of thirteen-pence-halfpenny in Halifax was hanged; Hell of cause, speaks for its self.”  This is a gross error; the thieves so caught at Halifax were not hanged, but were beheaded on a machine called the Halifax Gibbet, a precursor of that evil tool of Revolutionary France, the guillotine. " From YorkshireHistory.com

Geoff




Title: Re: Origins
Post by: JonP on June 28, 2008, 08:43:54 AM
Ooh, fascinating. Thanks for that, Geoff. The version I've heard is (I think) from Folk Songs of Olde England, Volume 2, by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior (pre-Steeleye Span).


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on December 14, 2008, 02:16:41 PM
I thought I'd written this in here before, but obviously not - the word 'boring'. I had to drill a hole through a 36" stone wall the other day, and during the half hour it took me to drill through the damn thing, I thought to myself, dear God this is boring. And then it dawned on me that it was quite literally 'boring' - boring a hole in the wall. Then I thought back in time to a time when drills weren't yet invented. Then they used a bow and a stick, with some sand to act as an abrasive. Imagine how long it must have taken to drill a hole in a chunk of stone to use as a grindstone, or to insert a post into a building, or a vertical bar in a loophole.

Surely this must be the origin of the word 'boring', as in tedious? :scratch:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Pharosian on December 14, 2008, 03:50:36 PM
I was driving along today when I spotted a Toyota MR2 - famously pronounced 'merde' in French - which most people know means 'shit' in English. Anyhoo, that started me thinking the word 'merde' sounds a fair bit like 'mud' if you say it with a French accent. So now I'm wondering if 'merde's the origin of the word 'mud', or vice versa :scratch: I wonder how one would find out.

According to Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:
mud n [ME mudde prob. fr. MLG; akin to OE mõs bog – more at MOSS] (14c)  *

According to Wiktionary:
merde
From Old French from Latin merda.

Noun

merda f.

   1. (slang, vulgar) dung, excrement, shit


* The o in mõs was supposed to have a straight bar over it, rather than a tilde, but I couldn't figure out how to create that symbol...


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Pharosian on December 14, 2008, 04:10:28 PM
I thought I'd written this in here before, but obviously not - the word 'boring'.

Well, you *did* write about it before, just not here. It was in the Good Morning, Good Night thread:

I spent all day today marking and drilling holes in joists while labourers chipped away lime plaster above me, which created clouds of irritating dust all day, and at the same time rained sandy grit through the gaps in between the floor boards above my head. To make matters worse I had to be constantly looking upwards, while a mix of the dust and the wood chippings from the drill bit blew into my eyes from the fan on the motor of the drill. Awful. I marked and drilled over 200 25mm holes today - 36 joists, 6 holes in each, ten feet off the ground. This doesn't count any of the holes I drilled in the floors and framing timbers :/

I swear this is where the word 'boring' came from. It probably started out with people who had experienced the mind numbing tedium of boring a hole using nought but a stick and some sand, and they'd come to say of something tedious, "It was like boring." To which a fellow serf might ask, "Wood, or stone?" Whereupon the first serf might reply, "Stone - it was akin to boring a ruddy great hole in stone, using nought but a stick and some sand." Over the course of history we've dropped the simile and now refer to anything mind numbingly tedious as simply 'boring'. That's my guess, anyway. ::) Faaaak....

So apparently you had an episode of deja vu...  :santa_azn:

And to make matters worse, that's not the origin of boring. Or at least if it is, none of the sources available to me admits it. They all agree that the origin is unknown.  :scratch:

The verb to bore as in "to drill" comes to us from before the 12th century, but the verb "to bore" as to cause weariness in others didn't come into the language until around 1768.


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on December 14, 2008, 04:48:59 PM
Ah, well done that man. And yes - deja vous is pretty common in the construction industry, on a 'same shit different day' type basis. It can be pretty mind numbing at times.

I still reckon it's too much of a coincidence for the act of drilling not to be the origin of the word, though. It's a dreadfully dull operation. :santa_undecided:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: Ed on December 13, 2009, 04:43:27 AM
Happy?

hap1  [hap]  Show IPA noun, verb, happed, hap⋅ping.
–noun 1.   one's luck or lot.
2.   an occurrence, happening, or accident.

–verb (used without object) 3.   to happen: if it so hap.

Source - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hap


So 'happy' really means 'lucky', doesn't it? And hapless = luckless :scratch:


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: digitaldeath on December 14, 2009, 06:04:51 AM
Just picked up on this thread. The Lone Ranger, Kemo Sabe is Spanish, he who knows.
Television is ripe with innuendo. Captain Pugwash had Seaman Stains and Roger the Cabin boy.
I read in a book on word derivation that Aussies call Brits Poms because they eat a lot of apples. Talk about thomas Crapper research. POM is Prisoner of Her Majesty as Brits coming to OZ were crims.


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: digitaldeath on December 14, 2009, 06:07:39 AM
When Rolls Royce developed a new car a while ago they were going to call it Silver Mist. Mist is Cow Shit in German so it became Silver Cloud.
The Colt Starion was the result of a rushed promotion over the phone. It was meant to be STALLION.


Title: Re: Origins
Post by: delph_ambi on December 14, 2009, 07:15:48 AM
Unfortunately, "Seaman Stains" and "Roger the Cabin boy" are an urban myth. Be nice if it were true.


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