Home » Articles tagged ‘etymology

What does “fort” in “fortnight” mean?

May 31, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Fortnight is a contraction of fourteen nights. The latter phrase, in the sense of a period of two weeks, was used in England as early as 1000 A.D., when it was used in a translation of the laws of Ine, who was King of the West Saxons in the seventh century. Fortnight has been gradually falling into disuse, …

Comments Off on What does “fort” in “fortnight” mean? Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Why are policemen called cops?

May 28, 2017 | Author: | Posted in General Knowledge

Cop as applied to policemen is believed to be derived from the old English verb to cop, meaning to catch, to get hold of, to nab. This meaning of cop survives in the slang expression to cop off, which signifies to grab or to make away with something sought by others. In England a policeman is still …

Comments Off on Why are policemen called cops? Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

May 25 – What is a creole?

May 25, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Creole is used in so many different senses that it is hard to define. In fact the term has been so distorted by usage that it is not safe to employ it except with extreme care. In the United States creole is generally applied to the white descendants of French and Spanish settlers of Louisiana and other Gulf …

Comments Off on May 25 – What is a creole? Tags: , , , , , ,

What is the “codfish aristocracy”?

May 24, 2017 | Author: | Posted in General Knowledge

Codfish aristocracy is now often applied to persons who, lacking in real culture, make a vulgar display of recently acquired wealth. Sometimes the term is also applied to families who were once rich and who still “put on considerable dog,” but who actually are so poor that they must live economically to support their pretensions. Originally codfish aristocracy was …

Comments Off on What is the “codfish aristocracy”? Tags: , , , , , ,

Which is correct, “spic and span” or “spick and span”?

May 19, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Spick and span is the correct spelling of this common phrase. It is often but erroneously written spic and span, owing apparently to a mistaken notion of its derivation. The original phrase was span-new, which, although little used now, means quite or perfectly new, and which is derived from Old Norse spann (“chip”), and nyr …

Comments Off on Which is correct, “spic and span” or “spick and span”? Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why is the shamrock Ireland’s national emblem?

May 18, 2017 | Author: | Posted in History

The shamrock is believed to have become the national emblem of Ireland as the result of a traditional incident in the life of St. Patrick. The patron saint of Ireland, it is said, appeared in 433 A.D. before a large group of Irish pagan chieftains and druids assembled on Slane Hill near Tarn. During one …

Comments Off on Why is the shamrock Ireland’s national emblem? Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Why are the people of Georgia called crackers?

May 16, 2017 | Author: | Posted in General Knowledge

Cracker is applied in the South, especially in Georgia and Florida, to poor whites and hill dwellers. The term in this sense dates back at least to the time of the Revolution. Although early uses leave the origin of the term in doubt, most authorities regard it as a shortened form of corncracker, which refers …

How did “fan” originate?

May 9, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Fan, in the sense of an enthusiast over baseball, football, radio or any other sport, amusement, entertainment or avocation, is modern and is believed to be a contraction of fanatic. The theory, often advanced by popular writers, that fan in this sense is derived from the verb to fan, signifying to blow upon, to stimulate …

What is a “shivaree”?

May 8, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Charivari, in the sense of a mock serenade of a newly married couple, is popularly spelled and pronounced shivaree in the United States. It is a French term and is correctly spelled charivari and pronounced sha-ree­va-ree in English. Some authorities suppose the word was of onomatopoeic or imitative origin and was suggested by the sound …

How did “booze” originate?

May 7, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Booze is not a word of recent coinage, as commonly supposed. It is an example of a good word that degenerated into slang. In varying forms the term has been part of the English language at least since the fourteenth century. It occurs variously as booze, bouze, bouse and bowse. Apparently it was derived from Middle …