Search found 2528 matches

by Jonathon Green
Fri Feb 12, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: ne'er-do-well
Replies: 1
Views: 5099

ne'er-do-well

The word, which is no more than an elided form of 'never do well', was originally northern English and Scottish dialect. It emerged, at least in print, sometime during the 18C.
by Jonathon Green
Fri Feb 12, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: usage of 'achieve' with respect to 'requirement'
Replies: 1
Views: 6517

usage of 'achieve' with respect to 'requirement'

These are the relevant definitions, as suggested by the OED and copied therefrom; I offer one citation per use, which may help. As you will see, the crosses at 5b and 6 mean that this use is obsolete. II. Of an end: To attain, gain. 5. trans. To succeed in gaining, to acquire by effort, to gain, win...
by Jonathon Green
Fri Feb 12, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: 'Charlie's Horse'
Replies: 1
Views: 4458

'Charlie's Horse'

The phrase was originally baseball jargon, dating from around 1887. More than I cannot offer. Nor indeed, can anyone else - believe me, I've checked.
by Jonathon Green
Fri Feb 12, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: Civil
Replies: 1
Views: 4285

Civil

No, no, no. It comes from Latin 'civis', a citizen.
by Jonathon Green
Fri Feb 12, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: masculine and feminine noun endings
Replies: 1
Views: 6163

masculine and feminine noun endings

Fortunate as we are to use a language which survives without gender, despite being a mongrel composition of others, notably Latin and its descendant French, which do, this is a problem we don't have to face. More irritatingly, I find that this being the case my various reference books are of little ...
by Jonathon Green
Fri Feb 12, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: jack shit
Replies: 1
Views: 6375

jack shit

Jack shit dates from the 1960s, is a US coinage and means 'absolutely nothing'; it is always used with a qualifying negative verb, e.g. 'you don't know jack shit about...' It combines the slang words 'jack', meaning very little, an infinitesimal amount and 'shit', in this context meaning nothing, ty...
by Jonathon Green
Fri Feb 12, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: 'mosquito'
Replies: 1
Views: 6856

'mosquito'

It is a Spanish/Portuguese diminutive of 'mosca', a fly; itself from Latin 'musca'.
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 09, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: porphyritic
Replies: 1
Views: 8995

porphyritic

It comes from the Latin 'porphyrites', a purple-coloured precious stone in Egypt; this in turn comes from Greek 'porphyrites', like purple. There seems to be no direct link to the writer.
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 09, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: Maukin
Replies: 1
Views: 5384

Maukin

The only word I can find that is remotely relevant is 'malkin', of which 'maukin' is a variant spelling and which is thus defined in the OED: † 1. Used as a female personal name; applied typically to a woman of the lower classes, esp. in various proverbial expressions. Obs. † b. The proper name of a...
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 09, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: cummerbund
Replies: 1
Views: 4342

cummerbund

Cummerbund comes from Persian 'kammar-band', a loin-band.
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 09, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: voracious
Replies: 1
Views: 4084

voracious

Latin 'vorare', to devour.
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 09, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: Owly
Replies: 1
Views: 4492

Owly

It does indeed stem from the owl, and means resembling an owl, or at least the anthropomorphic version of the bird.
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 09, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: Was vs Were and Saw vs Seen
Replies: 1
Views: 6584

Was vs Were and Saw vs Seen

I quote the Bloomsbury Good Word Guide: was or were: difficulty is sometimes experinced in the use of the subjunctive form 'were' in phrases expressing supposition. The basic rule is that 'were' is used when the suggestion is of something hypothetical, unlikely, or not actually the case. When a supp...
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 09, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: philanderer
Replies: 1
Views: 4784

philanderer

Philander/philanderer copmes from Greek philandros, loving or fond of men, (of a woman) loving her husband, itself from philo-, loving and aneir, man, male, husband; hence it became used as a proper name in story, drama, dialogue; in later use especially for a lover (perhaps misunderstood as = a lov...
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 09, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: six-pack
Replies: 1
Views: 10136

six-pack

The first cited use of sixpack as pertaining to beer is dated 1961. It was not slang, merely descriptive.