Tag Archives: Language facts

What “Mrs.” is Short For

Jonathon T. asks: Why is there an r in Mrs. when it’s pronounced misses? 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 […]

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The Term ‘Retarded’ Replaced the Psychological Terms ‘Idiot’, ‘Moron’, and ‘Imbecile’ Because These Terms Gradually Became Considered Derogatory

Etymology of Retarded

Funny enough, the term ‘retarded’ was used to replace the terms ‘idiot’, ‘moron’, and ‘imbecile’ due to the fact that these terms gradually became thought of as derogatory. This obviously only worked for a while and now ‘retarded’ is itself considered not politically correct.  It seems any word that basically means ‘low intelligence’ is fated to be thought of as […]

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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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“Avocado” Derives from a Word Meaning “Testicle”

Today I found out that “Avocado” derives from a word meaning “testicle”. The word Avocado comes from a Nahuatl Indian (Aztec) word “ahuácatl” meaning testicle. It is thought that the reference is either due to the avocado’s shape or the fact that it was considered to possess aphrodisiac qualities by the Aztecs. In Spanish, “ahuácatl” became “aguacate” and eventually “avogato” […]

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Where Does the Word Robot Come From?

Now You Know

Petyl asks: Where does the word robot come from? The word robot was coined by artist Josef Čapek, the brother of famed Czechoslovakian author Karel Čapek. Karel  Čapek was, among other things, a science fiction author before there was something officially known as science fiction, in subject matter along the same vein as George Orwell. He introduced the word in […]

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How Dick Came to be Short for Richard

Today I found out why Dick is short for Richard. The name Richard is thought by most etymologists to derive from the Proto-Germanic ‘Rikharthu’, meaning more or less “hard ruler” (‘Rik-‘ meaning ‘ruler’ and ‘-harthu’ meaning ‘hard’).  This was adopted into Old High German as ‘Ricohard’, and from there to Old French, then Old English as ‘Richeard’, and today as […]

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What is a Kudo, as in “Kudos to You”?

Donna asks:  What is a “kudo”, exactly? First, it should be noted that “kudos” is not the plural form of “kudo”, so a “kudo” was once technically nothing. However, because so many people in the last century, mainly in the United States, have thought kudos was plural, in some dictionaries today “kudo” is considered a valid word meaning the same […]

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Where the Word “Spell” Comes From

The word “spell” comes from the Proto-Germanic “spellan”, meaning “to tell”, which in turn gave rise to the Old English “spellian” and then “spell”.  The first recorded instance of spell, being used to indicate writing or reciting the individual letters of a word, was in the early 15th century.  It would later be given the meanings “incantation” (late 16th century) […]

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The Word “Droid” is a Registered Trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Today I found out the word “droid” is a registered trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. Shortly before Verizon launched their “DROID” line of mobile devices, Lucasfilm Ltd. swept in and filed a trademark on October 9, 2009 for the term “Droid”.  Specifically claiming the term for: Wireless communications devices, including, mobile phones, cell phones, hand held devices and personal digital assistants, […]

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“To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before” is Thought to Have Been Inspired by a Line from a White House Pamphlet on Space

Today I found out the famous Star Trek line “…to boldly go where no one has gone before” is thought to have been inspired by a passage in a White House issued pamphlet on space. Specifically, it is thought to be from this passage in the pamphlet, “Introduction to Outer Space“: It is useful to distinguish among four factors which […]

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Where the Word “Taxi” Comes From

The name “taxi” is obviously shortened from “taxicab”, which is derived from the two words: “taximeter” and “cabriolet”.  The taximeter was invented in 1891 and is used to record distances and calculate the fare.  Cabriolet refers to a horse drawn carriage where the driver stands in the back of the carriage. The name “taximeter” itself is derived from the Mid-Latin […]

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

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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