Category Archives: Language

The Language Made Up Entirely of Whistles


Today I found out about Silbo Gomero, the whistling language. In Spanish, “Silbo Gomero” means “Gomeran whistling.” It is a language “spoken” on La Gomera in the Canary Islands (which incidentally may have been named after dogs, and certainly wasn’t named after birds) and is made up entirely of whistling sounds. The language was used by the Guanches—the aboriginal people […]

Read more

How Hieroglyphics were Originally Translated


Today I found out about the history of the Rosetta Stone and how hieroglyphics were first translated. Hieroglyphics were elaborate, elegant symbols used prolifically in Ancient Egypt. The symbols decorated temples and tombs of pharaohs. However, being quite ornate, other scripts were usually used in day-to-day life, such as demotic, a precursor to Coptic, which was used in Egypt until […]

Read more

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


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 […]

Read more

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 […]

Read more

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, […]

Read more

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 […]

Read more

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 […]

Read more
1 8 9 10 11 12 16