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How did “dead as a doornail” originate?

March 6, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Anything stone dead is said to be dead as a doornail. The conventional explanation of this phrase is that doornail was an old name for the plate or knob on which the knocker or hammer strikes. “As this nail is knocked on the head several times a day,” says an old writer, “it cannot be …

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How did “laconic” originate?

March 3, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Laconic means “brief,” “concise,” “pithy.” It is an adjective formed from Laconia, the name of an ancient Greek country of which Lacedaemon or Sparta was the capital. The Laconians and Spartans were noted for their pointed, brusque and sententious speech. There is a tradition that Philip of Macedon once sent the following message to the …

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Which is correct, “these” or “this” molasses?

February 20, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Molasses is derived through Spanish from Latin mellaceus, “honey-like.” Since the singular and plural forms are spelled the same, the word is often construed as a plural when it should be construed as a singular. Molasses are, these molasses and those molasses are common expressions, especially in the South and West. They are incorrect except …

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What is the plural of “ski”?

February 6, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

The plural of ski is either ski or skis. Frequently the plural is erroneously written skiis, owing no doubt to the fact that the double i occurs in skiing, the present participial form. Ski, also spelled skee in English, is of Scandinavian origin. Americans almost universally pronounce the word skee, but the British generally follow …

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What does “savvy” mean?

January 28, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Savvy or savvey is an American corruption of Spanish sabe, a form of the verb saber, meaning “to know.” “Do you savvy?” is equivalent to Spanish “¿Sabe Usted?” Both mean, “Do you know?” Savvy was orig­inally acquired from the Mexicans by early ranchers in the Southwest who spelled and pronounced the word savvy rather than …

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How did “kibitzer” originate?

January 26, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

A kibitzer is a person who meddles in the affairs of other people, particularly one who, while not a player himself, watches a card game from behind the players and gives unasked for advice. By extension the term is applied to any individual who is always ready to give advice on any subject whether he …

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How did “bunk” originate?

January 24, 2017 | Author: | Posted in General Knowledge, History, Language, Literature

The original form of this word was Buncombe, which has been corrupted into bunkum and bunk. It originated in the United States House of Representatives on February 25, 1820, at the close of the historic debate on the Missouri Compromise. Felix Walker, a naive old mountaineer, represented the North Carolina district including Buncombe County. He …

What is the meaning of “and/or”?

January 8, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language, Legal, Literature

And/or is a device frequently found in legal and commercial documents and means “either both or only one” and indicates that the idea expressed is both distributive and inclusive. “John Brown and/or Paul Jones” signifies the same as “John Brown and Paul Jones or either of them”; that is, they are responsible individually as well …

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