Category Archives: Answers

What Does the “G” in “G-Spot” Stand For?

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Becky asks: What does the “G” in “G-spot” stand for? The “G” in G-Spot stands for “Gräfenberg”, after famed gynecologist Dr. Ernst Gräfenberg, who, among other things, had the “G-spot” named after him and invented the first known Ring IUD birth control device, the “Gräfenberg ring”. Dr. Ernst Gräfenberg was born in Germany on September 18, 1881 and received his doctorate on March […]

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Why Do the British Pronounce “Z” as “Zed”?

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Jack asks: Why do the British pronounce “Z” as “Zed”? It’s not just the British that pronounce “z” as “zed”.  The vast majority of the English speaking world does this.  The primary exception, of course, is in the United States where “z” is pronounced “zee”. The British and others pronounce “z”, “zed”, owing to the origin of the letter “z”, […]

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Is it “Racking Your Brain” or “Wracking Your Brain”?

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Stevo asks: Is “racking your brain” or “wracking your brain” the correct way to write that expression? There are some language guides, generally the ones that pay a lot of attention to the etymology of “rack” and “wrack”, that will still say it is “racking your brain” not “wracking your brain”, but these are becoming few and far between.  In […]

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How the Tradition of Trick or Treating Got Started

Amit Bhatnagar asks: Where did the American tradition of trick or treating come from? The vast majority of the traditions commonly associated with Halloween today are borrowed or adapted from four different festivals, namely: The Roman Feralia festival, commemorating the dead The Roman Pomona festival, honoring the goddess of fruit and trees The Celtic festival Samuin, meaning “summer’s end”, (also […]

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Why are Carved Pumpkins Called “Jack O’ Lanterns”?

Scott T. asks: Why are carved pumpkins called “Jack O’ Lanterns”? The name “Jack O’ Lantern” was originally one of the numerous names given to ignis fatuus (Medieval Latin for “foolish fire”), another of which is “Will O’ the Wisps”, basically the odd light that can occasionally be seen over marshes, swamps, and the like. (See: What Causes Will O’ […]

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What is the Origin of the Word “Tip”, as in Leaving a Tip

Frank Hintz: What is the origin of the word “tip” (as in leaving a tip)? You may have heard that the few hundred year old definition of “tip”, as referring to gratuity, comes from “To Insure Promptness” or similar backronyms, but this isn’t correct. In fact, pretty much anytime you’ve ever heard of a word that originated before the 20th […]

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Why Do They Call Grandfather Clocks by That Name?

J.Kaus asks: Why are Grandfather clocks called Grandfather clocks? At first glance, the answer seems obvious. Think about it- when was the last time you saw a grandfather clock in the house of anyone under the age of 70? Grandfather clocks- with their long cases, pendulums, echoing chimes, and Roman numerals- seem to belong to the world of courting parlors, […]

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Why are Women Called Sluts, Dames, and Broads?

Rinni asks: Why are women sometimes called “sluts”, “dames”, and “broads”?  Where did these words come from? Origin of the Word “Slut” “Slut” originally didn’t mean at all what it means today.  For instance, in a diary from 1664, Samuel Pepys writes, “Our little girl Susan is a most admirable slut, and pleases us mightily, doing more service than both […]

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