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The Origin of the Phrase “Coin a Phrase”

The Origin of the Phrase “Coin a Phrase”

Emily Upton May 26, 2014 2

Shannon asks: Where did the phrase “coin a phrase” come from? Thanks! For those unfamiliar, “to coin a phrase” traditionally means “to create a new phrase.” These days, “coin a phrase” has also taken

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Origin of the Phrase “Dead Ringer”

Origin of the Phrase “Dead Ringer”

Emily Upton May 22, 2014 1

Dustin asks: Where did the expression “dead ringer” come from? You have probably heard the often-repeated story about how the original “dead ringer” was a person believed to be dead who was then buried

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The Origin of the Phrase “Pulling Your Leg”

The Origin of the Phrase “Pulling Your Leg”

Emily Upton May 16, 2014 5

Diane M. asks: Where did the expression “pulling my leg” come from? For those who aren’t familiar with the phrase, when someone says, “You must be pulling my leg!” they usually mean, “You must

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Where Did the Word “Scumbag” Come From?

Where Did the Word “Scumbag” Come From?

Matt Blitz May 15, 2014 5

Mondagiriaksita asks: I was told a scumbag was originally a condom. Is this really where the word came from? “Scum” originated in the early 14th century from the Middle Dutch word “schume” meaning foam

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The Origin of the Term “Brownie Points”

The Origin of the Term “Brownie Points”

Emily Upton May 6, 2014 2

Andrew M. asks: Why do we say “You just earned some brownie points.” What were brownie points originally for? There are many, many origin theories for this one. One of the most often repeated

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The Origin of Bread and the Phrase “The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread”

The Origin of Bread and the Phrase “The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread”

Matt Blitz May 5, 2014 3

An idiom that is often used when something is new and fantastic is that, “It’s the best thing since sliced bread!” But how did this saying come to be? And what makes sliced bread

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The Origin of the Phrase “Mind Your Own Beeswax”

The Origin of the Phrase “Mind Your Own Beeswax”

Emily Upton May 2, 2014 0

Today I found out the origin of the phrase “mind your own beeswax.” “Mind your own beeswax” and “it’s none of your beeswax” are common phrases you might hear being shouted by six-year-olds on

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The Origin of the Phrase “As Dead as a Doornail”

The Origin of the Phrase “As Dead as a Doornail”

Emily Upton April 30, 2014 2

Ranjiith asks: Why do we say something is as dead as a doornail? In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens wrote about the questionable phrase, “dead as a doornail,” saying: Old Marley was as dead

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The Origins of Kitty-corner, Catawampus, and other Cat Words

The Origins of Kitty-corner, Catawampus, and other Cat Words

Emily Upton April 25, 2014 0

Today I found out the origins of the words “kitty-corner,” “catawampus,” and other “cat” words. The word “kitty-corner” has many different variations: catty-corner, caddy-corner, cat-a-corner, or kit-a-corner. They all mean the same thing: something

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What Is the Origin of Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior and Senior?

What Is the Origin of Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior and Senior?

Melissa April 25, 2014 2

Ian K. asks: Why are students called freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors? Rather than referring to a student’s year of study, in U.S. high schools and colleges, first year students are freshmen, second years

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The Origin of the Phrase “Jump on the Bandwagon”

The Origin of the Phrase “Jump on the Bandwagon”

Emily Upton April 24, 2014 7

Today I found out the origin of the phrase “jump on the bandwagon.” For those not familiar, when you jump on the bandwagon, it means you begin supporting a hobby, idea, person, etc. after

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What Makes a Vowel a Vowel and a Consonant a Consonant

What Makes a Vowel a Vowel and a Consonant a Consonant

Emily Upton April 22, 2014 7

Mark asks: Why is “y” only sometimes a vowel? When is it a vowel and when is it a consonant? You already know that vowels in the English alphabet are a, e, i, o,

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Where The Expression “Dressed to the Nines” Came From

Where The Expression “Dressed to the Nines” Came From

Daven Hiskey April 18, 2014 1

Samira asks: Why do we say “dressed to the nines” when someone’s dressed up? Like so many etymologies of expressions and words, we can only make educated guesses at the true origin of “dressed

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How Chickenpox Got Its Name

How Chickenpox Got Its Name

Cynthia Dite Sirni April 11, 2014 5

Calie asks: Why is chickenpox called chickenpox? The name, “Chicken Pox” is vernacular for the Varicella Zoster Virus. While it has a name that evokes cuteness and is even silly, it is a disease

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The Origins of the Names of the Historic Counties of Wales and Northern Ireland

The Origins of the Names of the Historic Counties of Wales and Northern Ireland

Emily Upton April 11, 2014 0

Today I found out the origins of the names of the historic counties of Wales and Northern Ireland. WALES Anglesey Anglesey is believed to be a Viking place name. The Vikings denoted islands with

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The Origins of the Names of Canada’s Provinces and Territories

The Origins of the Names of Canada’s Provinces and Territories

Emily Upton April 10, 2014 0

Today I found out the origins of the names of the Canadian provinces and territories. Alberta Princess Louise Carolina Alberta gave her name to this province when it was made a district in 1882

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The Origins of the Names of the Historic Scottish Counties

The Origins of the Names of the Historic Scottish Counties

Emily Upton April 9, 2014 0

Continuing our jaunt around the English speaking parts of the globe looking at the origins of the names of major places: today I found out the origins of the names of the historic Scottish

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The Origins of the Names of the Historic English Counties

The Origins of the Names of the Historic English Counties

Emily Upton April 8, 2014 4

Today I found out the origins of the names of England’s historic counties. Bedfordshire Bedfordshire is likely named after Beda, a Saxon chief who settled on River Great Ouse, which runs through the county.

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