What does Billy Joel mean when he sings, “the most she will do is throw shadows at you”? [more inside]
Etymology of "ginger" to mean redhead? [more inside]
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]
Why do mathematicians (and/or programmers) describe information passed to a function as an 'argument'? [more inside]
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]
What is the origin of using asterisks to bracket a self-referential action statement? [more inside]
Etymologyfilter: what is the origin of the term"Bird Course"?
Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Ribbentrop, Göring -- what are these surname origins? [more inside]
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]
What's the origin of the phrase "special (little) snowflake?" [more inside]
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]
How did the word "Brave" originate to identify Native Americans?
Is there a name for phrases (or sometimes words) that have lost their previous specific/narrow/jargon meanings and are now used generally in a wide variety of situations with little or no knowledge about their prior usage? Are there lists of them anywhere with the phrases and explanations? [more inside]
So, I want to learn more about etymology. What's a good place to get started? [more inside]
Please help me find the etymology for the German word "kitsch". [more inside]
Does the phrase "Please, not in the face!" (in reference to a metaphorical imminent beating) have a definitive, particular origin from a famous film or some other piece of pop culture? Or has it just sort of established itself from actual beatings?
I need to find the word meaning "a word with mixed Latin and Greek roots." It's not just "hybrid word," but a word that specifically indicated Greek and Latin origins. I've had several people remark that they know it but can't think of it, and my search skills have failed thusfar.
What is the origin of the phrase, "last, best hope" as used in pretty much every self-consciously significant but ultimately cliched film, book or TV episode I've indulged myself with over the last ten years?
In England it's common for football (soccer) fans to declare their team allegiance by saying "I'm X" rather than "I'm an X supporter". For example today I overheard this snippet of conversation: Football supporter 1: "Are you Liverpool?" Football supporter 2: "No, I'm Arsenal." It's as if the team defines an entire person. Where and how did this turn of phrase evolve, and is it common with any other sports in other places?
I am looking for the etymology for the term "gentleman's 'c'" and my google-fu is just pulling up Bush-bashing. Any advice from the hive?
Why is it called the index finger? [more inside]
"Adanac" is "Canada" spelled backwards, and it's an exceedingly common name for businesses, streets and so forth in Canada. Is this common in any other country? [more inside]
When did people start saying "best ___ evar" or "worst ___ evar"? Was there a single notable case that sparked the trend, or did it start happening more slowly without a specific origin? Standard etymology searches have turned up nothing.
How did people describe "electric" experiences before electricity? I got to wondering when someone described the feeling of being pressed up against someone as "electric"...surely people had that experience (for example) before it meant "like invisible power" or "tingly all over"? [more inside]
What is the origin, or etymology of the phrase: "bat shit insane"? [more inside]
TissueCultureFilter: Does anyone know the etymology behind calling cell scrapers 'policemen'? [more inside]
How can I find out who coined the term 'perverse incentive'? [more inside]
Where does the phrase "Get out the vote" come from? [more inside]
Where did the phrase "the shit hit the fan" originate from? My googling has revealed one claim that it is from 1930's jazz lingo, although no explanantion is given as to what it meant at the time, and another site gives a story that describes the origin that doesn't seem believable. (the last paragraph here: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=shit Does anyone know where the phrase came from? Thanks!
Linguistic/Etymology academics: I wrote a 2,000 word paper / article which friends say is of publishable quality and interesting, but not sure what venue to try. [more inside]
OK, so I'm sitting here with one of my buddies, talking about his research, and we realized that we know the word for "of or relating to mice" (murine), and the word for "of and related to cow" (bovine), but have no clue what the word for "of or related to rat" is. And after what we thought of as a pretty comprehensive web search (including this very good Google Answer), we're no closer to an answer. Anyone know what the word we're looking for is?
Weird grammar question that's been bugging me for a while with regards to reversing questioning clauses at the end of declarative sentences. [more inside]
Have the meanings of words referring to colours changed? [more inside]
When was the phrase "pull the plug" first used in the sense of allowing someone to die? (such as stopping artificial respiration, etc...)
What is the origin of the term MILF? [more inside]
What's the origin/etymology of the phrase "Tall Drink of Water", usually in reference to an attractive southern woman?
Origins of the phrase "Big Sky"? Was it first used to describe Montana? Might it have Native American origins?
Does anyone have any idea what the phrase "common or garden" actually means? I mean I know it means "ordinary" but what is the garden bit about? or is it common as in Greenham Common, perhaps?
Did "based on" beget "based off of"? [more inside]
What's the original source of the phrase, "fly your freak flag high?"
What's the origin of the phrase "For those of you [playing/following/scoring] along at home?" [more inside]
What is the origin of the phrase "to shoot the shit?"
In English, we have words like mercurial, martial, jovial, and saturnine... [more inside]
On Unix systems, what is the origin of the directory name "/etc"? That is, why is it called that versus "config", "conf", or anything else that might make sense? Thanks!
Muslim or Moslem? [more inside]
What is the origin of the phrase "It's on like Donkey Kong"? [more inside]
What is the origin of the phrase/quote/saying "Dying is easy, comedy is hard?"
Several, couple, a few: occasionally, these words are used to indicate specific quantities of items (3, 2, and 4-5, respectively). Tell me about the etymology of these uses, and help me come up with more words (in English or other languages) that have this interesting specific/nonspecific duality.
The personal aide to a President, other politician, and certain other muckety-mucks is sometimes known as a "body man". (This usage was popularized, but not invented, by Charlie's role in The West Wing.) Why "body man"? Does anybody know the origin/etymology of the term?
What is the etymology of the phrase flaming liberal? [more inside]