Tag Archives: etymology

Origin of the Term “Smart Alec”

kramer pimp

Today I found out the origin of the term “Smart Alec”. It was once thought this term was simply generic and that Alec wasn’t actually a real person.  However, relatively recent research by various etymologists such as Professor Gerald Cohen, in his1985 work “Studies of Slang”, has shown, based on considerable newspaper article evidence, that “Alec” was actually very probably […]

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It’s “Just Deserts” Not “Just Desserts”

Today I found out that the idiom used for the notion of someone “getting what’s coming to them”, whether good or bad, is actually “just deserts”, not “just desserts”. The misconception primarily stems from the fact that most people are unfamiliar with the word ‘desert’ (pronounced dizert), which more or less means the same thing as the word ‘deserve’.  Instead, […]

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The Difference Between “Faze” and “Phase”

Don't Phase Me, Bro!

Today I found out the difference between “faze” and “phase”.  These two words are often misused, even by professional writers, particularly in regards to the phrase “phased out”, which is more often than not incorrectly written as “fazed out”, due to the two being homophones. Specifically, “faze” means: “to disturb, disconcert, or daunt; caused to show discomposure”.   On the other […]

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What the Nautical Term ‘Avast’ Means and The Origin of Many Other Seafaring Words and Phrases

pirate encyclopedia

Avast: meaning “stop” or “hold still.” The word was originally derived from the Dutch phrase “houd vast,” which literally means “hold fast.”  The frequent usage of this phrase eventually got it slurred down to “hou’ vast” and later “avast.” This became a common term among sea-folk around the late 17th century. Coxswain: a boy servant (swain) in charge of a […]

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The Term “Third World Country” Refers to the Political and Economic Structure of a Country, Not Its Developmental State or Wealth

Today I found out a “Third World” country is not a country that simply is primitive, underdeveloped, or poor, as most people think.  In fact, a third world country is actually just a country that is not considered a capitalist country (first world) and not considered a communist country (2nd world). This terminology was originally coined just after WWII with […]

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The Words Moron, Imbecile, and Idiot Mean Different Things

Today I found out the words moron, imbecile, and idiot mean different things.  In psychology, an idiot has the least intelligence on the IQ scale (this now is equivalent to someone who is mentally retarded or the more politically correct “mentally challenged”); an imbecile is not quite as dumb as an idiot and is now considered equivalent to moderate retardation; […]

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How ‘Gay’ Came to Mean ‘Homosexual’

Today I found out how ‘gay’ came to mean ‘homosexual’. The word “gay” seems to have its origins around the 12th century in England, derived from the Old French word ‘gai’, which in turn was probably derived from a Germanic word, though that isn’t completely known.  The word’s original meaning meant something to the effect of “joyful”, “carefree”, “full of […]

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