Tag Archives: etymology

Origin of the Word Lukewarm

Now-You-Know

Today I found out the origin of the word “lukewarm”. You’ve probably wondered why we have the word “lukewarm” for describing something that is only slightly warm.  Why not “stevewarm” or “beckywarm”?  Well if you didn’t before, hopefully you’re wondering now. It turns out, while today using “luke” to mean “warm” has gone out of fashion, possibly due to the […]

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What “Mrs.” is Short For

Gloria Steinem who, in the 1970s, helped popularize "Ms." as a marital-neutral abbreviation for women.

Today I found out what “Mrs.” is short for. You may have wondered, if you’ve ever thought about it, why there is an “r” in “Mrs.” when it’s generally spoken as “missus” (also sometimes spelled “missis”).  “Mrs.” first popped up as an abbreviation for “mistress” in the late 16th century.  At the time, “mistress” didn’t popularly have the negative connotation […]

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It’s Bad Rap, Not Bad Wrap

Now You Know

You should know that the expression to describe when someone is falsely convicted of a criminal charge or is on the receiving end of unjustified criticism is “bad rap”, not “bad wrap”. Further, “rap” in this sense is not an acronym of “Record of Arrest and Prosecution”, though has since been backronymed as such.  The reality is that the meaning […]

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The Term “Scot Free” Does Not Come from the Dred Scott v. Sandford Supreme Court Case

DredScott

Myth: the term “scot free” has its origins from the Dred Scott v. Sandford U.S. Supreme Court Case. “Scot free”, also sometimes written “scotfree”, “scot-free” or, incorrectly, as “Scott free” actually pre-dates the Dred Scott Supreme Court ruling in 1857 by a very large margin (having been around since at least the 11th century). Another common misconception is that the […]

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“Nephew” Used to Refer to Both Boys and Girls

nephew-gender-neutral

“Nephew” at one time was a gender neutral term, but since around the 17th century has referred nearly exclusively to male children of one’s siblings or brother/sister-in-law’s children.  The word “nephew” comes from the Old French “neveu” meaning “grandson, descendant”, which in turn comes from the Latin “nepotem”, meaning “sister’s son, grandson, or descendant”.  The first documented case of “nephew” […]

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In Pinky and the Brain, Brain’s Name is an Acronym for “Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus”

pinky-and-the-brain

##EMBED## In the cartoon “Pinky and the Brain”, Brain’s name is an acronym for “Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus”.  Pinky’s name is probably a reference to the fact that a “pinky” is another name for a baby mouse that has not yet grown fur.  However, in the cartoon itself, the name was given to Pinky when Brain was referring to […]

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Why Carbonated Beverages Are Called “Soft Drinks”

Crown Cork

Today I found out why flavored carbonated beverages are called “soft drinks”. It turns out, soft drinks aren’t just flavored carbonated beverages.  “Soft Drink” refers to nearly all beverages that do not contain significant amounts of alcohol (hard drinks). The term “soft drink” though is now typically used exclusively for flavored carbonated beverages.  This is actually due to advertising.  Flavored […]

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The Words “Blond” and “Blonde” are Not Wholly Synonymous

Blonde Hair

Today I found out the words “blond” and “blonde” are not wholly synonymous.  So what’s the difference between the words “blond” and “blonde”? (besides the obvious extra ‘e’) The difference is simply in what gender the word is referring.  When referring to a woman with yellow hair, you should use the feminine spelling “blonde”.  When referring to a male with […]

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There is Nothing That Comes After Once, Twice, Thrice

English Sign

Today I found out there is nothing that comes after the sequence “once, twice, thrice”. Interestingly, even though these words are roughly equivalent, differing only in the numeric value they refer to, it is now considered poor English to use “thrice” instead of the equivalent “three times”.  At the same time, it is considered poor English to use “one time” […]

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Where the Word “Algebra” Came From

algebra

Today I found out the origins of the word “Algebra”. It all started back around 825 AD when a man named Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, the “father” of Algebra, wrote a book called “Kitab al-jabr wa al-muqabalah”.  This roughly translates to “Rules of Reintegration and Reduction”.  This work was specifically covering the branch of mathematics we now know […]

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