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Seeking English words with meanings hidden in plain sight

Help me find English words that have meanings hidden in plain sight. For example, it only recently occurred to me that a "quart" is a quarter of a gallon. [more inside]
posted by alms on May 4, 2010 - 142 answers

What is the etymology of the phrase "Paris is Burning?"

What is the etymology of the phrase "Paris is Burning?" [more inside]
posted by kittensofthenight on Apr 25, 2010 - 9 answers

Funnest etymologies?

The etymology of the word "glamour" comes from the word "grammar". Over time, the "r" eroded to an "l" and became associated with someone who was high–falutin. This is possibly my favourite etymological story, and I like sharing it with my students. I got it from a book called "Thereby Hangs a Tale". Metafilter, what are your favourite etymological stories? [more inside]
posted by fantasticninety on Apr 3, 2010 - 84 answers

Word nerds seeks "meta-core"-ellary

I'm a word nerd who likes fun words and this word I came across is fun to say and, at least to me, kind of new: mumblecore. That got me thinking -- what makes a "-core?" I am interested in how generes of certain media are dubbed “-core.” Is there anything that makes a genre a “-core” genre and not it’s own suffix-free genre name? Why is “screamo” not “screamcore,” when we have “nerdcore,” “noisecore,” and “hardcore?” (more...) [more inside]
posted by cross_impact on Apr 1, 2010 - 22 answers

Some stories are too good to be false...

[CulinaryEtymologyFilter] Can anyone explain the origins of the word ratatouille? I heard an explanation once, but suspect it's false... [more inside]
posted by molybdenum on Mar 3, 2010 - 11 answers

Did you guys see the size of that chicken?

[batshitinsane Filter] (etymology) What is the origin of BatShitInsane? [more inside]
posted by at the crossroads on Feb 13, 2010 - 14 answers

A lady from Magdala

Pronouncing the word "Magdalene." [more inside]
posted by phaedon on Feb 3, 2010 - 15 answers


Please explain the meme "THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS!" [more inside]
posted by the NATURAL on Jan 27, 2010 - 24 answers

Good etymology book?

My friend recently mentioned that he'd like to have a good (American English) etymology book. Can anyone suggest a good one? It can be simple and short or long and detailed, but I'd prefer to err on the side of long and detailed.
posted by helixportland on Dec 23, 2009 - 14 answers

"It was not there to protect me from you. It was there to protect you from me"

Where does the phrase "It was not there to protect me from you. It was there to protect you from me" come from? [more inside]
posted by seanyboy on Oct 30, 2009 - 9 answers

Where's Cissylvania?

Where's Cissylvania? [more inside]
posted by madcaptenor on Oct 26, 2009 - 15 answers

Etymology &

How can I add an etymology reference/resource to Apple's [more inside]
posted by jofuu on Oct 8, 2009 - 3 answers

What does the surname "Naftzger" mean?

Help me track down the meaning of a surname. The name is "Naftzger." It seems to be a Germanic (if not German) word for an occupation (e.g. "Metzger" means "butcher"). But what occupation? What does the "Naf" mean? Bonus points for information on region of origin.
posted by reverend cuttle on Oct 1, 2009 - 3 answers

Verbum -> Parole due to religious scruples?

I looked up the etymology of parole in An etymological dictionary of the Romance languages, and was intrigued by this: "It took the place of the L. verbum which, from religious scruples, was sparingly used" (emphasis mine). What "religious scruples" are they alluding to? No elaboration is given in that entry. I realize that verbum means "word", and shares a stem with lots of other meanings, but I would love to know if anyone knows more.
posted by everichon on Sep 8, 2009 - 11 answers

Mommy I'm twelveteen now!

Why are the teen numbers (13-19) named differently than the rest of the numbers, and what's up with eleven and twelve? [more inside]
posted by Arbac on Sep 5, 2009 - 33 answers

Detailed etymological dictionary?

Does a comprehensive etymological dictionary exist that crosses languages? [more inside]
posted by Tchad on Sep 3, 2009 - 11 answers

There's a frog on my bow.

Why is the wooden block at the end of a violin bow called a "frog"?
posted by mendel on Jul 11, 2009 - 5 answers

Do you know the etymology of Ponos and Poena

My boss has asked me to sort out the etymology of the words "Ponos" (Greek for Labor ?) and "Poena" (Latin for Sorrow?). The question is which came first, and are they related as it seems? Also, would those rough definitions be close to accurate?
posted by willnot on Apr 28, 2009 - 5 answers

What is the origin of the phrase "Mama needs a new pair of shoes"?

What is the origin of the phrase "Mama needs a new pair of shoes"? I've also seen "Mama needs new shoes". Where did it come from and why is it sometimes used specifically in relation to gambling? [more inside]
posted by =^^= on Mar 11, 2009 - 13 answers

Thesaurus word like "homage to"

Single word that means "to sing the praises of", poss. Greek or Roman in origin. Thinking paean, or ode but not quite. [more inside]
posted by jchinique on Feb 23, 2009 - 25 answers

A word for Greek voyeurism?

There is a Greek word which describes a preference for voyeurism over participation in sexual activities. What is it? (It may involve small boys.)
posted by Tufa on Feb 18, 2009 - 3 answers

It means curious.

What is the etymology, meaning, or connotation of the first/personal name Maher in Arabic culture? [more inside]
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... on Feb 8, 2009 - 11 answers

Word histories and dirt lions

How does one arrive at a list of all the English words that can be traced back to a given root word? The word "chameleon" will be discussed. [more inside]
posted by sleevener on Jan 9, 2009 - 9 answers

Cusco, Cuzco, Ccozcco, Qusqu

Cusco or Cuzco? Is this a matter of potato potahto? Or post-colonial post-colohnial? [more inside]
posted by cachondeo45 on Dec 22, 2008 - 10 answers

What the heck is hanging?

What is the origin of the phrase "getting the hang" of something? What did it mean, originally, to "get the hang" of something?
posted by RedEmma on Oct 9, 2008 - 17 answers

What is the origin of the phrase "by the balls"?

What is the origin of the phrase "by the balls" as in: "He's really got you by the balls."? [more inside]
posted by sciurus on Oct 2, 2008 - 14 answers

Sha-boom Sha-boom, sha na na na na na na na na na na (repeat)

Where does Doo-Wop come from? [more inside]
posted by phylum sinter on Oct 1, 2008 - 8 answers

trivial question on the etymology of "Spam": Did it originate at a Pern hatching?

trivial question on the etymology of "Spam": Did it originate at a Pern hatching? [more inside]
posted by Challahtronix on Sep 8, 2008 - 8 answers

Where does the phrase "losing your virginity" come from?

Where does the phrase "losing your virginity" come from? [more inside]
posted by rzperllian on Sep 2, 2008 - 13 answers

Books on Japanese etymology?

Are there any layman-accessible, English-language books or (less preferably) websites on Japanese etymology or the development of Japanese? [more inside]
posted by Citizen Premier on Aug 30, 2008 - 6 answers

Who said it first?

Where did the saying "It's 5 'o Clock Somewhere" originate? [more inside]
posted by applemeat on Jul 30, 2008 - 13 answers

What does hemophiliac mean?

What does hemophiliac mean? [more inside]
posted by brevator on Jul 28, 2008 - 18 answers

canis lupus whatisthis?

What is the origin of the cross-linguistic "kutt"-like root for dog? [more inside]
posted by harhailla.harhaluuossa on Jul 12, 2008 - 8 answers

Brand new question

What is the etymology of "brand new"? When did it first appear?
posted by Neale on Jun 24, 2008 - 4 answers

What sort of glory?

The etymology of Greek "glory" names... [more inside]
posted by clockzero on May 29, 2008 - 2 answers

The gig/jig is up

MajorDomesticDebateFilter : What is up? She says jig. I say gig. Google is undecided. [more inside]
posted by vizsla on Apr 25, 2008 - 37 answers

The word "Cockpunch".

What is the etymology of the word "cockpunch"? [more inside]
posted by Tube on Apr 24, 2008 - 15 answers

Transferable Skills Origin

When did the concept of "transferable skills" become commonplace? [more inside]
posted by Tube on Apr 1, 2008 - 6 answers

Billy Joel etymology

What does Billy Joel mean when he sings, “the most she will do is throw shadows at you”? [more inside]
posted by dreamphone on Feb 15, 2008 - 31 answers

Explain the ginger!

Etymology of "ginger" to mean redhead? [more inside]
posted by Pocahontas on Feb 8, 2008 - 21 answers

Etymology of the word `book' meaning `go'.

Another etymology question : what's the origin of the term `book' meaning `to go'. For example `Let's book on outta here", or "I'm gonna book down to the 7-11". [more inside]
posted by tomble on Jan 10, 2008 - 35 answers

Why 'argument'?

Why do mathematicians (and/or programmers) describe information passed to a function as an 'argument'? [more inside]
posted by b33j on Dec 13, 2007 - 14 answers

Help me find a word for this obscure kind of situation!

Obsessivewordenthusiastfilter: I'm writing a paper and I'm trying to portray a certain situation which I feel would be best conveyed with the use of an allusion, preferably to a Greek or Roman myth. More inside! [more inside]
posted by Lockeownzj00 on Dec 9, 2007 - 19 answers

Self-referential Asterisks

What is the origin of using asterisks to bracket a self-referential action statement? [more inside]
posted by Tube on Dec 8, 2007 - 27 answers

What is the origin of "Bird Course?"

Etymologyfilter: what is the origin of the term"Bird Course"?
posted by Fuzzy Monster on Dec 7, 2007 - 8 answers

Origins of the names in Hitler's cabinet

Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Ribbentrop, Göring -- what are these surname origins? [more inside]
posted by zek on Nov 12, 2007 - 9 answers

Antonym for 'anhedonia'

If "anhedonia" is an inability to get pleasure from pleasurable experiences, is there a word or concept that describes an inability (or a diminished capacity) to be saddened by experiences usually considered "sad"? [more inside]
posted by cadastral on Nov 1, 2007 - 25 answers

You entitled kids get off my lawn!

What's the origin of the phrase "special (little) snowflake?" [more inside]
posted by dw on Oct 5, 2007 - 19 answers

Does "biographize" exist? No, really.

Does the English language have a one-word verb meaning "to write a biography of someone"? And if so: does anyone use it? [more inside]
posted by mdonley on Sep 5, 2007 - 27 answers


How did the word "Brave" originate to identify Native Americans?
posted by obedo on Aug 3, 2007 - 6 answers

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