How did the phrase Passing the Buck originate?

The phrase passing the buck probably came into use in American poker games during the late nineteenth century. In 1872, Mark Twain wrote that players would pass an object, a buck, to remind them of who was to deal. It is also possible that buck is an old word for bet.

How did the phrase To 86 Someone become popular?

The phrase “to 86” generally means “put an end to”. It is said to have been part of a number code used in diners and soda fountains. In those early days, 86 meant “we’re out of that dish,” “don’t serve that customer,” or “don’t serve another drink to that customer because he’s already had too … Read more

Where does the word Salary come from?

The word salary evolved from salarium argentium, or “salt money”. Salt money was fees paid to Roman soldiers to buy the then precious commodity. In some instances, salt was indeed used as money.

How deep is a Fathom?

A fathom is Six feet deep. How far is a league? A League can vary from 2.4 to 4.6 miles. What is the area of an acre? An acre is 4,840 square yards, or 43,560 square feet.

What is the derivation of the phrase In Like Flynn?

The phrase “In Like Flynn” is believed to have originated with Ed Flynn. Flynn was head of New York City’s Democratic party machine from 1922 to 1953. Flynn’s political machine was always “in” power. The phrase gained further popularity in 1942, when swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn (1909-1959) was tried and acquitted on charges of the … Read more

Is gaga the short form for a longer word?

Probably not. In French, gaga means a silly old man, and the meaning may simply have been modified. However, some think it is short for artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), who, it is said, revealed mental imbalance in his work.

What is a papal bull?

It is not an animal, but an official edict or decree from a pope. The term comes from the Latin bulla (a knob or seal). It originally referred to the seal that was placed on the pope’s official documents.

Where does the term Stark Naked come from?

The term Stark Naked is a corruption of the term start naked. In the thirteenth century, when the phrase originated, start took the Anglo-Saxon form steort, which meant “tail” or “rump.” Therefore, stark naked refers to someone naked to the tail.

How did the expression to Make a Bed originate?

In the evening, citizens of the Roman Empire constructed their beds by placing straw into a cloth sack. The straw had to be emptied every night to dry; therefore, the beds had to be remade every night. This practice continued until the fifteenth century, in some countries, even later.

What is the difference between deduction and induction?

In the process of deduction, you derive conclusions from assumed statements by using the rules of logic, moving from the general to the specific. In induction, you make inferences from experiments or observations to build a general law, moving from the specific to the general.

How did the phrase bringing home the bacon originate?

There are several theories. One is that the phrase refers to greased-pig contests once held at county fairs, where the winner kept the pig and thus brought home the bacon. Another theory revolves around the town of Dunmon, England. There, in A.D. 1111, a noblewoman decreed that any person who knelt at the church door … Read more

How did the term Minutes of a meeting originate?

Rather than measuring the time that passes during a meeting, the word minutes refers to the Latin minutus, or “small.” This is because the occurrences of the meeting are meant to be noted shortly and quickly, not that the events themselves are unimportant.

What is the origin of the term baker’s dozen?

The term probably dates back to fifteenth-century England, where strict laws were passed to prohibit bakers from underweighing their bread. Since weights could not be precise, bakers adopted the practice of giving 13 loaves on every order of 12. However, another theory has to do with the common folk phrase devil’s dozen, meaning 13. Bakers … Read more

What is the difference between a Barrister and a Solicitor?

Both types of professionals practice law in Great Britain, but their roles are different. A barrister represents clients in open court and may appear at the bar. A solicitor is allowed to conduct litigation in court but, with only a few exceptions, not to plead cases in open court. In practice, most plaintiffs and defendants … Read more

What is the relation of the word Bedlam to Bethlehem?

The word bedlam, now used to describe a scene of uproar and confusion, was originally a contraction of Bethlehem. It referred to Saint Mary of Bethlehem, a religious house in London that was converted into a hospital for the insane in 1402. The term came to mean a lunatic asylum, one of its inmates, or … Read more

Who invented the term Fifth Column?

A Fascist general named Gonzalo Queipo de Llano y Sierro is said to have coined the phrase during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). As four Fascist army columns closed in on Madrid, the general described his supporters inside the city as a “fifth column.” The term came to mean any group of subversives trying to … Read more

What is the origin of the word Nightmare?

The word Nightmare was named after a creature but not a horse. According to ancient superstition dating back to the eighth century in England, people thought a female monster or spirit, a so-called mare, would sit upon a sleeper’s chest. This would cause a feeling of suffocation from which the sleeper would try to free … Read more

What is the difference between cathartics and catharsis?

A cathartic is a medicine that stimulates movement of the bowels. Aristotle, in his Poetics, used the medical term catharsis (in Greek, literally “purgation” or “purification”) as a metaphor for the way a stage tragedy “cleans out” the emotions of a spectator by arousing terror and pity.

What is the difference between homographs, homophones, and homonyms?

Homographs are two or more words that are spelled alike but have different meanings and sometimes different pronunciations, such as lead (the metal) and lead (to conduct). Homophones are pronounced alike but have different spellings and meanings, such as rite, right, and write. Homonyms are spelled or pronounced alike but have different meanings, such as … Read more

What does to be hoist by one’s own petard mean?

The word petard refers to a type of bomb or mine once used to break down walls and gates. To be hoist is to be blown up. Therefore, to be hoist by one’s own petard is to be, literally or figuratively, blown up by one’s own bomb.

Is it permissible to split infinitives?

It depends on whom you ask. Some editors will still change “to boldly go where no man has gone before” to “to go boldly . . .” But other pundits now consider the taboo against split infinitives all but passé. The taboo was introduced by eighteenth and nineteenth-century grammarians for unknown reasons.

What is the difference between Semantics and Semiotics?

Semantics is the study of meaning. Approached from the philosophical point of view, it involves the relationships between words; approached from the linguistic point of view, it deals with changes in meaning over time. Semiotics is the study of signs and the use of signs in human communication.

What is Spelunking?

Spelunking is the exploration of caves as a hobby. It is not to be confused with speleology, the scientific study and exploration of caves.

Where did the word nice come from?

It derives from the Latin nescius, or “ignorant,” which comes from nescire, or “not to know.” In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the phrase a nice person connoted foolishness rather than agreeableness. Over the years, however, nice has gained its more favorable, if bland, connotation.

What is the difference between a Preface and a Foreword?

At one time there was no difference between a Preface and a Foreword. Preface was the Latinate term, foreword the Anglo-Saxon one, for a brief opening comment about a book’s purpose. Now, many consider an author’s introductory comment to be the preface, and anyone else’s comment to be the foreword.

When should you use the word Irregardless?

You should not use the word irregardless ever. The word is redundant because the negative prefix “ir” does the same work as the negative suffix “less”. Use regardless instead. Irregardless, some folks use it anyway.

Why are Sweatshops called sweatshops?

Sweatshops were referred to as such not because the workers sweat a lot. In the 1840s in England, the word sweating meant the exaction of tedious work at low wages. The term sweatshop, a place where workers were “sweated”, was coined in the United States in 1867. Originally referring only to the garment industry, it … Read more

What is the origin of the phrase 23-Skiddoo?

It was coined by New York’s Finest along Twenty-third Street in the years before World War I. At the corner of Twenty-third Street and Broadway, traditionally the windiest corner of the city, men used to stand outside the famous Flatiron Building for free looks at ladies’ well-turned ankles. The police dutifully moved the audience along, … Read more

How did the Dandelion get its name?

Not surprisingly, the name refers to a part of the lion. In England, before the sixteenth century, the weed was called lion’s tooth because of its serrated leaf’s resemblance to the lion’s incisor. Later, the French translation, dent de lion, was adopted into English and eventually became anglicized to “dandelion.”

When should a writer use Insure as opposed to Ensure?

Writers should busy themselves with other things. Insure and ensure can be used interchangeably to mean “make certain.” In the United States, however, the spelling insure is generally preferred to ensure, and only insure can be used to mean “indemnify against loss.”

What is the difference between e.g. and i.e.?

The abbreviation eg., standing for the Latin exempli gratia, or “for the sake of example,” means exactly that, a series of examples: “large dogs, e.g., Saint Bernards and Great Danes.” The abbreviation i.e., standing for id est, or “that is,” explains the subject you have mentioned: “large dogs, i.e., those over 3 feet tall and … Read more

What is the origin of the word hoodlum?

There are several theories for the origin of the word hoodlum. One has to do with a gang of thugs in San Francisco led by a man named Muldoon. A fearful reporter, writing about him in 1877, spelled the name backward, Noodlum, and the compositor mistook the N for an H. A second theory claims … Read more

What does O.K. stand for?

Despite many alternative claims, the first appearance in print links the term O.K. to a political organization that supported the reelection of President Martin Van Buren. The New York New Era of March 23, 1840, carried an article on the Democratic O.K. Club. The initials stood for Old Kinderhook, a Van Buren epithet derived from … Read more

Why are Oklahomans called Sooners?

According to Oklahoma history, it is in honor of the state’s first settlers. They crossed the border into Oklahoma Territory sooner than the rest and obtained the choicest pieces of land. In 1889, Oklahoma Territory was opened for settlement, and the federal government attempted to close and police the borders until a designated time when … Read more

What is the origin of the word attic?

The word attic comes from Attica in ancient Greece. There, an attic was a certain kind of low story above the main floor. Over the centuries, however, attic has come to refer to any low space above the top floor of a building.

Where did the phrase to eat Humble Pie originate?

In the eighteenth century, the best meat of any meal went to the men of the house and their friends. The women and children ate the umbles, the tongue and entrails, baked in an umble pie. In time, the dish went out of fashion, but the phrase took on a new life that it still … Read more