Category Archives: Language

Origin of the Stock Market Terms “Bull” and “Bear”


Kevin asks: Why do we call the stock market trends “bullish” and “bearish”? For those who don’t know, a “bear” market, or when someone is being “bearish” in this context, is marked by investors being very conservative and pessimistic, resulting in a declining market generally marked by the mass selling off of stock.  A “bull” market is simply the opposite […]

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Why the Viet Cong Were Called “Charlie”


Mike T. asks: Why were the Viet Cong called “Charlie” during the Vietnam War? First, because I suspect there are at least a few people curious and it pertains to how the name “Charlie” ultimately came about, let’s discuss how the term “Viet Cong” came about at all.   It comes from “Việt Nam Cộng-sản”, which just means “Vietnamese Communists”.  This, […]

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The Origin of the Looney Tune’s “ACME” Corporation Name

An actual roadrunner bird.  MEEP MEEP!

For those of you who didn’t spend your childhood with your eyes glued to the TV screen watching Saturday morning cartoons, “ACME” is the name of the fictional company that appeared in almost every Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon. This company supplied Wile E. Coyote with a never-ending range of ridiculous products that would inevitably fail, generally with […]

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Why We Call the Seasons Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring


J.K. asks: Why are the seasons called winter, spring, summer, and fall? “Winter” derives from the Proto-Germanic *wentruz, meaning winter.  This in turn probably comes from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *wed, meaning “wet”.  Alternatively, it may come from the PIE *wind-, meaning “white”.  Either way, the Proto-Germanic *wentruz gave rise to the Old English “winter” as the fourth season of the […]

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Where Did the Word “Assassin” Come From?

Ruins of the fortress at Alamut

Chris Klick asks: Why is someone who murders a prominent person called an “assassin”. Where did this word “assassin” come from? The word “assassin” derives from a secretive murder cult in the 11th and 12th centuries called the “Hashishin”, meaning “hashish eaters”.  While much of the origin of this cult has been lost, the original leader was Hasan Ben Sabah, […]

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“Ye” in Names Like “Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe” Should Be Pronounced “The”, Not “Yee”


Today I found out the “ye” as in “Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe” should be pronounced “the”. The “Ye” here is not the “ye” as in “Judge not, that ye (you) be not judged”, but is rather a remnant of the letter “thorn” or “þorn” (Þ, þ).  The letter thorn was used in Old Norse, Old English-Middle English, Gothic, and Icelandic […]

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