Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “word origins”

Shakespeare Celeb: William’s Words


Words Shakespeare Invented
(under the guise of April’s Word Nerd Confessions)

Getty Images/Edward Gooch

image: Mental Floss

While Shakespeare was a creative wordsmith–no doubt there, it should be noted that he tended to borrow from other sources and polish them so well that they became associated more with him than the original. I cite the sonnet form, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar as starter examples.

Another aspect of polishing came to words. It’s thought Shakespeare contributed at least 1,500 words to the common language, some sources say it’s closer to 1,700. He achieved this by changing nouns into verbs or verbs into adjectives or splicing together words. Shakespeare Online.com, a marvelous source of all matter Shakespeare, has compiled a short list of some of his contributions. For further elaboration on his wordly inventions please click here.

Note: clicking on the word will take you to the play where it was used.

academe accused addiction advertising amazement
arouse assassination backing bandit bedroom
beached besmirch birthplace blanket bloodstained
barefaced blushing bet bump buzzer
caked cater champion circumstantial cold-blooded
compromise courtship countless critic dauntless
dawn deafening discontent dishearten drugged
dwindle epileptic equivocal elbow excitement
exposure eyeball fashionable fixture flawed
frugal generous gloomy gossip green-eyed
gust hint hobnob hurried impede
impartial invulnerable jaded label lackluster
laughable lonely lower luggage lustrous
madcap majestic marketable metamorphize mimic
monumental moonbeam mountaineer negotiate noiseless
obscene obsequiously ode olympian outbreak
panders pedant premeditated puking radiance
rant remorseless savagery scuffle secure
skim milk submerge summit swagger torture
tranquil undress unreal varied vaulting
worthless zany gnarled grovel

Ready for a challenge? Create a sensible sentence with as many of the above words as possible. Here’s a starter…

So–next time you reach for the skim milk, hoping you won’t be disheartened  to discover it’s worthless and sour, initiating a rant of discontent, consider a generous thanks to the Bard for providing a varied list to select from so as not to impede  your outbreak towards those accused of leaving milk past its prime in the refrigerator, because a  tranquil   kitchen produces radiance. I know, this sentence is laughableif not zany.

DOWOs: the “A” list


Having expended all the interesting expressions found in Why We Say, and not wanting to disappoint fans, I have found another source for expressions origins, which is appropriately titled Dictionary of Word Origins: A History of the Words, Expressions, and Cliches We Use by Jordan Almond. For posting purposes DOWO shall suffice.

I have been merrily marking choice entries to share. Look for new DOWOs around the 15th of each month.

Let’s start off with a few “A” list entries:

Why does “A-1” mean the very best?

London Marine insurance firms created a registry of ships and their cargo designating the condition through alpha/numeric sequence. An “A” rating meant the ship was perfect, and a “1” meant the cargo was perfect.

So if you are “A 1” it might be safe to say you are ship shape [you will just have to wait patiently for that reference].

What is meant if something or someone is found to be “above board?”

Dishonest gamblers and magicians (not that they are considered dishonest) often create their tricks or sleight of hand out of sight underneath the table or board. What can’t be seen can’t be trusted, which means if all is performed out in the open it is “above board.”

Performing his card tricks in front of the appreciative crowd, the magician was flushed with his success of dazzling them all with his above board feats of card sharpery.

What is an “Adam’s apple?”

Going back to the Garden of Eden we find Eve offering Adam fruit, which is traditionally thought to be an apple. Maybe being caught by God snacking where they weren’t supposed to caused Adam to choke on his apple bite, thus that bit of stuck fruit is referenced as “Adam’s apple.”

So did Eve swallow hers first or did she not take a bite? Hmm…

Why does “alcohol” mean “spirits?”

Actually “alcohol” means “eye paint.” Both Egyptians and Arabians prepared a black powder to paint eyelids which in Arabic is called al koh’l. Eventually the process of extracting the essence of product from the vine through a charcoal filter became known as “alcohol.”

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

What is meant by “running amuck?”

This has nothing to do with gallivanting around in a mud puddle. In Malay, where the phrase originated, it meant someone under the influence of opium or other stimulants would become so excited they would rush around in a dagger-led frenzy stabbing people and yelling “Amoq! Amoq!” or “Kill! Kill!!”

I, for one, will think twice before attributing this description. Especially to emus.

Why We Say #10: of Chickens and Whistles


“George, do you think we can afford to go out to dinner and maybe take in a show? Will that be too expensive?”

“Why, Martha. The expense of going out on the town with my best girl is chicken feed. Grab your hat, darling, and let’s skeddadle downtown.”

George and Martha probably enjoyed their night out because more than likely George, being a generous fellow, had made his fortune and a spending money mattered no longer to him. In fact, a few dollars was a mere pittance, like tossing crumbs to the birds.

And that’s exactly where the expression “chicken feed” comes from–tossing small bits out at a time.  Chickens don’t have the capacity to chew up their food (ever see a chicken smile?) and must peck at small amounts. Apply that idea to money and chicken feed means a small amount of spending, not enough to worry or get choked up over.

image: thedo.gs not your average chicken

 

“Martha, are you going to be able to get that spot of gravy out of my tie? I have to look sharp for tomorrow’s presentation.”

“No worries, George. I’ll get it clean as a whistle.”

I doubt Martha was whistling was she worked on George’s tie.  Honestly, George, don’t you know gravy is just looking for the opp to drip on ties?

As for the expression “clean as whistle”, this one is pretty much as it sounds (sorry, the pun overcame the keyboard). About the time of Huck Finn and company, boys would find reeds and poke holes in them to make their whistles. The cleaner the reed, the cleaner or clearer the sound.

image: investitureachievement.org

Why We Say: #9–Bringing On More B


Wait! Wait! We interrupt our regular programming for this late breaking news flash: Mike Allegra is running ANOTHER free doodle contest. This is a not to be missed event. Check out the details at his WordPress site: http://www.mikeallegra.com.

We now return to our regular programming…

Last time I spotlighted the B section, concerning “Why We Say”, and I shall continue, since it is an absolute bounty to B-hold.

image: k2nblog.com Nothing like a brand new item fresh from the fires of shopping

Brand New
I like to frequent thrift shops; I don’t mind the slightly used, and often  thrill over the serendipitous find. On the other hand, I do appreciate owning the brand new. Rifting through the racks, securing a purchase, and slinging my sack home–MMM, new treasure. This little book has helped me to learn the true meaning of the phrase “brand new” and it gives me pause. I first thought it might refer to the company who makes the product, as in the type, the brand.  It seems “brand” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for “fire.” When blacksmiths forged metal products they would stamp in their mark, their brand. However, over time the mark would fade due to use and the item would no longer be “brand new.” So when my new treasure fades away it’s time for me to fire up my card and search for another brand-new-to-me something, right?

image: colourbox.com “hey man, can you spare some bread?”

Bribery
“Quit loafing around, and get going on your homework. Get it done and you can go to the movies tomorrow.” Or some such form of bribery is said by Party B to get Party A motivated. Bribery. It’s not necessarily nestled amidst residents of the “nice” or “positive” words list. Officials caught accepting bribes make headlines. People are sometimes insulted if offers (thinly veiled “bribes”) are considered above or beneath them. Yet, you have admit bribes do serve as a motivator. Way back when, Europe perhaps, people hanging out looking for a hand out were a problem needing a solution. Wah La! Credit the French for the fix. “If you move on, you’ll receive a loaf of bread.” The French archaic term for such a form of motivator was “bribe.” So if someone is loafing around slip them some bread, presidential or whole wheat–your call.

image: fxtechnical.com Whiny brokers, in the original sense, of course, do not rock.

Broker
If you watch Hollywood movies, there is an association of stock brokers being well-versed in wining and dining to win over clients. This isn’t too far from the origin of “broker” and again we credit the French. The word “broker” once meant “one who opens wine kegs.” Later that person would sell said wine, and even act as an agent in other transactions. So when people whine to their broker about how their lackluster portfolio is, it’s all relative.

Next time we continue on with another bounty of words and origins.

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: