Language »

Why a Dollar is Called a “Buck”

Why a Dollar is Called a “Buck”

Daven Hiskey March 13, 2014 2

As with many etymologies, the exact root of this word is difficult to say with one hundred percent certainty. However, the leading theory is extremely plausible and backed up by a fair bit of

Read More »
Why We Say Gesundheit When Someone Sneezes

Why We Say Gesundheit When Someone Sneezes

Emily Upton March 12, 2014 0

Today I Found Out about the meaning of the word “gesundheit” and other sneeze etiquette around the world. You are probably accustomed to hearing or saying “bless you” after someone sneezes. It’s simple sneeze

Read More »
What is a Tarnation?

What is a Tarnation?

Daven Hiskey March 12, 2014 0

Michael asks: What’s a tarnation? Like in the expression, “What in tarnation!” We have the word “tarnation” thanks to societal taboos against saying certain words- instead substituting in other words that often mean the

Read More »
Why Three Strikes in a Row in Bowling is Called a “Turkey”

Why Three Strikes in a Row in Bowling is Called a “Turkey”

Daven Hiskey March 10, 2014 0

This is thought to have its origins in bowling tournament prizes. Late eighteenth and early nineteenth century prizes given out during these tournaments were often food items, such as a basket filled with various

Read More »
Why New York City is Called “The Big Apple”

Why New York City is Called “The Big Apple”

Daven Hiskey March 4, 2014 9

This is an excerpt from our new book: The Wise Book of Whys, available in: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audiobook The earliest documented reference to New York being referred to as “The

Read More »
Where the Word “Sneeze” Came From and the Origin of “Nothing to Sneeze At”

Where the Word “Sneeze” Came From and the Origin of “Nothing to Sneeze At”

Matt Blitz March 4, 2014 2

Martin A. asks: Where did the expression “nothing to sneeze at” come from?  For that matter, why is sneezing called sneezing?  Thanks! As with so many etymologies, it’s difficult to definitively say exactly where

Read More »
Why Engines are Commonly Measured in Horsepower

Why Engines are Commonly Measured in Horsepower

Daven Hiskey February 28, 2014 1

We owe this unit of engine power measurement to Scottish engineer James Watt. In the early 1780s, after making a vastly superior steam engine to the then classic Newcomen steam engine, Watt was looking

Read More »
Why “Mac” and “Mc” Surnames Often Contain a Second Capital Letter

Why “Mac” and “Mc” Surnames Often Contain a Second Capital Letter

Emily Upton February 26, 2014 7

David asks: Why is the second “C” capitalized in names like “MacCleod”? The short story is that “Mc” and “Mac” are prefixes that mean “son of.” Early inconsistencies in records are what led to

Read More »
Why the Mass Avoidance of Some Business is Called “Boycotting”

Why the Mass Avoidance of Some Business is Called “Boycotting”

Daven Hiskey February 20, 2014 2

This term was named after a nineteenth century Englishman, Captain Charles C. Boycott (who originally had the surname “Boycatt,” but the family changed the spelling when he was nine years old). If you guessed

Read More »
What A “Bane” Is

What A “Bane” Is

Emily Upton February 19, 2014 1

Meghan asks: In “The bane of my existence” what is a bane? The phrase “the bane of my existence” is extremely popular, and you’ve probably said it once or twice yourself, perhaps about a

Read More »
Why the Ferris Wheel is Called That

Why the Ferris Wheel is Called That

Emily Upton February 7, 2014 1

Today I Found Out why Ferris wheels are called that. A necessity at any county fair or festival, Ferris wheels stand out like a beacon on the horizon leading eager fair-goers to crowded rides

Read More »
The Differences Between British and American English

The Differences Between British and American English

Emily Upton February 5, 2014 18

Thandi asks: What are some key differences between the UK English and US English? Most people are well aware of some of the more obvious differences between British and American English. For instance, American

Read More »
Why Japan is Called the Land of the Rising Sun

Why Japan is Called the Land of the Rising Sun

Melissa February 4, 2014 1

Noah asks: Why is Japan called the land of the rising sun? Ancient, China developed all of the hallmarks of advanced civilization, including written language, advanced cities, specialized labor and bronze technology, as much

Read More »
The Checkered History of Slush Funds

The Checkered History of Slush Funds

Matt Blitz February 3, 2014 1

“Slush funds” has gotten many politicians and government officials in trouble over the years. The 19th and 20th century politics are riddled with fallen and, sometimes, corrupt individuals who were hit with the dreaded

Read More »
Where Did the Expression “Let the Cat Out of the Bag” Come From?

Where Did the Expression “Let the Cat Out of the Bag” Come From?

Matt Blitz January 31, 2014 2

Ryan asks: Where did the phrase “let the cat out of the bag” come from? The famous humorist and writer Will Rogers once said, “Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole

Read More »
Why We Call Someone Who is Insane a “Basket Case”

Why We Call Someone Who is Insane a “Basket Case”

Emily Upton January 30, 2014 1

Today I Found Out how the phrase “basket case” came to mean “someone who is insane.” At first, “basket case” didn’t mean someone who was crazy. Instead, it referred to someone who had a

Read More »
The Origin of the English Names of Colors

The Origin of the English Names of Colors

Melissa January 28, 2014 3

Dating back centuries, the names of our everyday colors have origins in the earliest known languages. According to linguists: There was a time when there were no color-names as such . . .  and

Read More »
Why Do We Knock On Wood?

Why Do We Knock On Wood?

Kathy Padden January 24, 2014 1

Karla asks: Why do we knock on wood for luck? You’ve probably said this phrase and performed this action countless times, without the slightest clue as to the meaning behind it. So why do

Read More »