Category Archives: Language

Where “Catch-22” Came From and the Origins of Other Famous Words and Phrases

writing

Not set in stone, the English language is constantly evolving to describe new developments and experiences and to match the zeitgeist of the times. With words created out of necessity to describe a new technology, like tweet and telephone, their origins are relatively easy to trace back to the people who first invented them. With others that seem to rise […]

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

bull-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”

ho-chi-min-city

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

seasons

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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