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Why Are Strikebreakers Called Scabs?

Why Are Strikebreakers Called Scabs?

Melissa March 25, 2014 1

Kayla R. asks: Why are strikebreakers called scabs? Striving to win safer working conditions, shorter hours and better pay, over the past few hundred years laborers have periodically joined together in work stoppages, called

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Where the Phrase Quitting “Cold Turkey” Comes From

Where the Phrase Quitting “Cold Turkey” Comes From

Emily Upton March 24, 2014 0

Mark asks: I don’t know if you’ve already covered this or not, but why do we call quitting something abruptly “cold turkey”? When you quit something “cold turkey” it means that you’re quitting smoking,

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Why We Say “O’Clock”

Why We Say “O’Clock”

Daven Hiskey March 21, 2014 4

The practice of saying “o’clock” is simply a remnant of simpler times when clocks weren’t very prevalent and people told time by a variety of means, depending on where they were and what references

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Why “Hank” is Short for “Henry,” Why “Colonel” is Pronounced “Kernel,” and Why We Say “Stat” When We Want Something Done Quickly

Why “Hank” is Short for “Henry,” Why “Colonel” is Pronounced “Kernel,” and Why We Say “Stat” When We Want Something Done Quickly

Daven Hiskey March 20, 2014 5

Why “Hank” is Short for “Henry” This is thought to be thanks to the one time popular suffix “-kin,” which is also how “Jack” originally derived from the name “John.” Specifically, the suffix “-kin,”

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Why Tuberculosis was Called “Consumption”

Why Tuberculosis was Called “Consumption”

Daven Hiskey March 17, 2014 0

Originally, of course, nobody knew what caused the various forms of tuberculosis, and they certainly didn’t understand it was caused by what would eventually be called tubercle bacillus (usually the offending microbes are specifically

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Why the Speed of Seafaring Vessels is Measured in Knots

Why the Speed of Seafaring Vessels is Measured in Knots

Daven Hiskey March 14, 2014 3

How fast you’re going while out floating on the big blue can be notoriously tricky to judge if you’re just eyeballing it. One method used to get around this issue was introduced in the

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Why a Dollar is Called a “Buck”

Why a Dollar is Called a “Buck”

Daven Hiskey March 13, 2014 5

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

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Why We Say Gesundheit When Someone Sneezes

Why We Say Gesundheit When Someone Sneezes

Emily Upton March 12, 2014 1

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

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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

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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 1

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

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Why New York City is Called “The Big Apple”

Why New York City is Called “The Big Apple”

Daven Hiskey March 4, 2014 11

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

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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

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Why Engines are Commonly Measured in Horsepower

Why Engines are Commonly Measured in Horsepower

Daven Hiskey February 28, 2014 3

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

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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 8

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

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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 5

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

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What A “Bane” Is

What A “Bane” Is

Emily Upton February 19, 2014 3

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

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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

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The Differences Between British and American English

The Differences Between British and American English

Emily Upton February 5, 2014 28

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

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