Search found 2528 matches

by Jonathon Green
Sat Feb 06, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: Here's Mud In Your Eye
Replies: 1
Views: 1245

Here's Mud In Your Eye

The original use of the phrase is in World War I; thus it may be that the reference, for which I have no hard and fast etymology, may refer to the mud of the trenches.
by Jonathon Green
Sat Feb 06, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: poppycock
Replies: 1
Views: 1484

poppycock

Dutch 'pappekak', soft faeces.
by Jonathon Green
Sat Feb 06, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: God's speed
Replies: 1
Views: 1413

God's speed

The original use of the phrase, c. 1470, was as an abbreviation of the phrase 'God speed you', i.e. to express a wish for the success of one who is setting out on some journey or enterprise.
by Jonathon Green
Sat Feb 06, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: Penitentiary
Replies: 1
Views: 1286

Penitentiary

The true first use of penitentiary came in 1577 when it was defined as 'of or pertaining to penance; administering, or undergoing, penance.' Its use to mean prison began in 1816, when it was used as an abbreviation for the 18C term 'Penitentiary House'.
by Jonathon Green
Sat Feb 06, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: son of a gun
Replies: 1
Views: 1223

son of a gun

This sounds fun, but like so much popular etymology should be taken with a whole mine full of salt. It is simply a euphemism, if such a thing is actually necessary, for 'sonofabitch'.
by Jonathon Green
Sat Feb 06, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: Can of worms
Replies: 1
Views: 1184

Can of worms

I assume that the phrase is very much what it says: the image of a can of writhing, slippery, unpleasant worms.
by Jonathon Green
Sat Feb 06, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: printing
Replies: 1
Views: 1164

printing

Stet comes from Latin stet, 'let it stay'.
by Jonathon Green
Sat Feb 06, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: business presentations
Replies: 1
Views: 1086

business presentations

Perhaps its an extended use of 'deck' meaning a pack of cards.
by Jonathon Green
Sat Feb 06, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: toodleloo
Replies: 1
Views: 5863

toodleloo

Either the 'tooting' of a horn as a coach moves off, or French 'à tout à l'heure', goodbye.
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 02, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: m'am
Replies: 1
Views: 4044

m'am

It is no more thn a local/regional/dialectal pronunciation of the old-fashioned 'Madam'.
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 02, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: Use of foot or feet
Replies: 1
Views: 1626

Use of foot or feet

I offer the words of the Bloomsbury Goood Word Guide: foot or feet? The plural of foot, as a unit of measurement, may be foot or feet: a six-foot fence; five feet tall; nine feet eight inches long; a pane of glass measuring two foot six by four foot three. In compound adjectives that precede the nou...
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 02, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: broad dame
Replies: 1
Views: 1195

broad dame

Dame is no more than a borrowing of the standard English word. Broad seems to reflect an image of a shapely, well-built woman.
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 02, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: modem
Replies: 1
Views: 1278

modem

Modulator and demodulator. The instrument, while associated with the modern era of e-mail and the Internet, actually dates to 1958.

MODulator EMulator
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 02, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: nasty
Replies: 1
Views: 1258

nasty

There is no definite origin. Links have been suggested with the Dutch 'nestig', foul, dirty and Swedish dialect 'naskug', nasty, dirty, but neither has been proved.
by Jonathon Green
Tue Feb 02, 1999 8:00 am
Forum: Ask the Wordwizard Archive
Topic: 'Thou' and 'You'
Replies: 1
Views: 1378

'Thou' and 'You'

'Thou' is a now obsolete (in English) means of conveying the second-person singular, which in such languages as French or German implies a definite intimacy. To address someone with whom one is not intimate, the second-person plural, translated as 'you' is preferred. Today the divison, while still p...