43 posts tagged with language and etymology.
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Sift this matter to the bottom....

What's the origin of the now-archaic phrase "sift this matter to the bottom," meaning to make it a priority? [more inside]
posted by mudpuppie on Oct 6, 2014 - 6 answers

Why do anti-feminists use "female" rather than "woman"?

Anti-feminists seem to often use the word "female" in the noun form, in places where people would ordinarily just use "women." (I don't want to spend a lot of time hunting up evidence of this, but here are some examples. There's also this and this.) I'm curious to know how/why this became a thing -- for example, I've wondered if it has something to do with military or police usage, because those are the only places I've previously noticed women being referred to as females. Does anybody know?
posted by Susan PG on Sep 12, 2014 - 46 answers

What's up with this odd usage of the word "steal"?

In the early 1990s, the boys in my middle school used to threaten to "steal" each other, meaning hit/punch/sock/pop/smack. It was most commonly heard as, "I'mma steal you in your eye!" or "I'm gonna steal him upside the head!" I found it strange even then, and I haven't heard or seen reference to it since. Have you heard "steal" used like this before? Where could it have come from? Relevant details: This was in Nash County, North Carolina. I recall hearing it exclusively from white boys. The couple times I asked someone who was self-aware enough to discuss it, they were adamant that it was "steal" and not "steel."
posted by rhiannonstone on Feb 6, 2014 - 17 answers

Batman: Linguistic Origins

What are some examples of really easy/obvious etymological descents that most people aren't really aware of? I'm trying to prove to somebody that there are a lot of these in the english language but I've forgotten most of the interesting ones I used to know. [more inside]
posted by tehloki on Nov 22, 2013 - 27 answers

"historacle" just feels silly to me

Is there a term for a seer/diviner/oracle that is only able to see into the past? I'm willing to grab one from a non-English language if there is a word that means specifically "a seer who can only see the past", but English is prefered. Antiquated terms are OK. Bonus points for interesting etymological details (or links to interesting etymological details). [more inside]
posted by NoraReed on Jul 16, 2013 - 12 answers

"Hosed" etymology - When did this phrase come into use?

At what point did the phrase "I'm/you're/we're hosed" come into play in the US vernacular? Earliest record? From pop culture somewhere? Are there regions of the US that did not ever use this turn of phrase?
posted by juniperesque on May 17, 2013 - 17 answers

List of simple word roots

I am looking for a text file of a list of words (roughly the 5000-10000 most common English words) and their root word and root word language. My Google Fu only turns up single words or pages that I can type in a word to get to another page to get the etymology. Wikipedia has some stuff, but it is sorted by language root, which is not what I am looking for. I would like to have a long list of words in a text file so that I can manipulate it programatically. Comma separated or whatever, any format would be great. Here is one use case: Yoke - [list of words that have yoke in the etymological history] (Many, many many English words come from the root work for Yoke.) All answers appreciated!
posted by Monkey0nCrack on May 16, 2013 - 6 answers

Etymology of "I know, right?"

I have a theory about the origin of the expression “I know, right?” that’s been fairly popular among young and youngish Americans (and others, for all I know) for the past several years. I’m testing that theory with this question. I understand that Mexicans (and maybe other Latin Americans) have an equivalent expression, “Sí, ¿verdad?” - even with the same intonation as “I know, right?”. Well, one source has told me this, anyway. Can other people verify this? And if so, how common is/was the Spanish version of the expression, and roughly when (and where) did people start saying it?
posted by Mechitar on Apr 18, 2013 - 9 answers

AskMezza

What is the etymology of British nicknames ending in -zza/-zzer? [more inside]
posted by catlet on Nov 30, 2012 - 21 answers

Philately is to Stamps as ____ is to Rocks.

Stamp collecting is philately. Coin collecting falls under numismatics (perhaps as a subdivision). Rock collecting is not really geology in the same way as the above terms are used. Is there a similar term for rock collecting?
posted by Jahaza on Nov 3, 2012 - 7 answers

Gold teeth and a curse for this town were all in my mouth

What words have you made up that you use regularly? [more inside]
posted by holdkris99 on Jan 13, 2012 - 209 answers

Saying sugar and yelling your full name: southern or not?

Two questions about vocabulary in the American South and elsewhere: did your parents call you sugar and did they, when you were in trouble, use both your first and middle names to summon you for the reckoning? [more inside]
posted by mygothlaundry on Jun 2, 2011 - 81 answers

All's sub-par in love and war.

Why is fair considered to be lesser than good, very good or excellent? [more inside]
posted by eschatfische on May 25, 2011 - 11 answers

Help get this question out of my head!

How did the word "earworm" come to mean something you can't get out of your head (like a song, etc)? Looking for the German etymology, if there is one. [more inside]
posted by bitter-girl.com on Oct 1, 2010 - 5 answers

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

Where's Cissylvania?

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

Detailed etymological dictionary?

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

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

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

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

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

Braves

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

Specialized Phrases in General Usage

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]
posted by andoatnp on Jul 30, 2007 - 18 answers

What's a word meaning "having mixed Greek and Latin roots"?

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.
posted by luftmensch on May 6, 2007 - 10 answers

What's the origin of the phrase "last, best hope for.."?

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?
posted by barbelith on Apr 8, 2007 - 18 answers

How did people describe "electric" experiences before electricity?

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]
posted by paul_smatatoes on Dec 20, 2006 - 25 answers

The Question Hit the Fan

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!
posted by andoatnp on Sep 26, 2006 - 8 answers

Potato, potahto, Muslim, Moslem

Muslim or Moslem? [more inside]
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood on Apr 8, 2006 - 21 answers

Where'd Borges Get Dem Werds?

On behalf of a friend, though it actually sounds like an interesting question and I think I'd like to know too: Could you put up something asking about whether there's a real-world source/derivation for the words "hron" and "hronir" used in Borges' "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"?
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me on Nov 5, 2005 - 3 answers

Where does "Cohee" come from?

What is the etymology behind the word "Cohee"? [more inside]
posted by Third on Sep 13, 2005 - 2 answers

Etymology of the phrase "hunt you down like a dog"

What's the origin of the phrase "hunt you down like a dog?" I can seem to find the origins of other phrases involving dogs pretty easily but not this one.
posted by DyRE on Feb 3, 2005 - 16 answers

How is the word "merc" pronounced and what does it mean?

Pronunciation/Definition Filter: The "word" merc. (+) [more inside]
posted by mygothlaundry on Dec 17, 2004 - 21 answers

Deciphering Arabic

LanguageFilter: Any Arabic speakers here? I'm trying to decipher an Arabic phrase: "Baashake ya halo." I might have spelled it wrong, but I know it's not a common Arabic phrase so much as it is slang. Any ideas?
posted by symphonik on Dec 12, 2004 - 9 answers

Dutch Ovens

Etymology of the phrase "Dutch oven." (Stop giggling. The culinary sense, please.) I have a partial answer but am in need of authoratative confirmation. [more inside]
posted by stuart_s on Dec 9, 2004 - 18 answers

Can genius be used as an adjective?

Can genius be used as adjective, as in this example from the BBC: "Send Dave your genius idea."? If so, why? [More Inside.] [more inside]
posted by MiguelCardoso on Sep 2, 2004 - 29 answers

Bloggy?

Is there a single-word noun that means "things that relate to blogs/are in the manner of blogs?" If not, any ideas for a made-up one?
posted by Nikolai on Jun 15, 2004 - 28 answers

Astronaut vs Cosmonaut

Etymology question: astronaut vs. cosmonaut. Why are there two separate terms for the same thing? Is the distinction just a Cold War relic? It always seemed a little redundant to me. What about "taikonaut"?
posted by mkn on Feb 22, 2004 - 4 answers

Origin of "Go Piss Up a Rope" and the H. in "Jesus H. Christ"?

Excuse me, but can anyone tell me: What exactly is the origin of the phrase Go piss up a rope? I know it's present in the American South and Midwest, but did it originate elsewhere? Does the phrase occur in other countries? And how exactly does one piss up a rope? Does it mean Go climb a rope (similar to Piss off!), or literally Go urinate up a length of braided twine? And, while we're at it, what the hell does the H stand for in Jesus H Christ? I've always wondered. [...a little more inside] [more inside]
posted by Shane on Jan 19, 2004 - 12 answers

Origin of a meme

What is the origin of the

1. Do one thing
2. Do another thing
3. ??????
4. Profit!

meme?
posted by jpoulos on Jan 13, 2004 - 6 answers

"Asshat" - origination and definition?

Where did the term "asshat" originate, and what's it's definition?
posted by SpecialK on Jan 8, 2004 - 10 answers

Why do lesbians have their own word?

Why are gay women lesbians, while gay men are just gay? [more inside]
posted by o2b on Dec 16, 2003 - 12 answers

The word "stat"

Where does the word "stat" come from, as in "Give me 20ccs of Ringer's Lactate, stat!"?
(I know it means quickly, but what's its origin?)
posted by jpburns on Dec 13, 2003 - 10 answers

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