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A Sprinkling of Linguistic Curiosities
Paul Anthony Jones
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Roman vomitorioum had nothing to do with vomit. The latin word just meant to expel; so it was just the exit/entrance passage to a large building.
Aprons and umpires were originally naprons (little tablecloth) and numpire (originally from Fr word nonper meaning non-equal, a third person brought in to judge between two others). All these words were arbitrarily altered by scholars in Middle Ages.
Reverse process where vowel starting words gained an 'n'. Nickname was originally an eke-name
Charles Dickens coined the word Growlery - a room you went to when you were in a foul mood.
Clinomania is an excessive desire to stay in bed. Dysania is an inability to get out of bed. Matututolypea is an early morning bad mood.
German kummerspeck, the excess weight you gain through comfort eating, literallymeans 'grief-bacon'.
Trivia derives from Latin for plce where three roads meet (a quadrivium was a crossroad). In the Middle Ages these 2 words became associated with learning. The quadrivium was the 4 mathematical arts of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. The trivium of grammar, rhetoric and logic, was seen as the lesser of the studies. And so trivia became inconsequential details. Like this paragraph.
Separate is most commonly misspelled word in English, followed by definitely and manoevre. Other top 20 were words with multiple letters - embarrass, occurrence, unnecessary and the C's of supersede and consensus.
First recorded use of OMG was in 1917. A naval admiral wrote to Winston Churchill asking whether there was a new knghthood order coming - OMG as in Oh! My! God!
The Frenche equivalent of LOL is MDR (mort de rire, or 'dead with laughter'
Nothing rhymes with carpet or orange. Poets have come close, but always a contrivance that doesn't wuite fit - 'bar pet' and 'change' nearest.
Petrichor is term for the earthy smell in the air after it rains. Literally 'the life blood of rocks'.
The currencies of Japan (yen), China (yuan) and South Korea (won), all mean 'round'.
Opportunity comes from L word meaning 'winds blowing to harbour'. (So you have thewind at your back, but you still have to steer and do what's needed to get your boat to port.)
The dint in the bottom of a wine bottle is a punt.
The Scots word tartle refers to the awkward pause when you try to introduce someone and realise you've forgotten their name.
Your siblings are your brothers and sisters. Your nieces and nephews are your niblings.
Bully comes from Dutch word for brother, and was originally a term of enderament. But one variant came to mean the man who protected prostitutes, and the more pleasant variants quickly died out.
The G of G-spot stands for Grafenberg, the German gynocologist who first described it as an erogenous zone in 1944.
Tautological place names: the Arabic name for desert is sahara; the Mongolian word for desert is gobi. So 'Sahara desert'and"Gobi desert' both mean 'desert desert'.
Similarly Mississippi means 'big river' in Indian dialect so Mississippi River is 'big river river'. La Brea means tar pitin Spanish, so La Brea Tar Pits means tar pits tar pits.
But the absolute record holder is Torpenhow Hill in Cumbria. Tor is OE word for hill, as is pen in Welsh, and haugh in Norse. So it is 'hill hill hill hill'.
A drachenfutter is a gift from a husband to placate wife. It literally means 'dragon-feed'.
The C17 word firkytoodle means 'to caress lovingly'.
Conversation is an anagram of 'voices rant on'.
Meliorism is the belief that things get better with time.
Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! is the only place name in the world containing two exclaation marks. In this case the ha-ha comes from old usage of a (concealed) ditch used as a fence to block cattle, and which came from French word meaning any obstacle blocking the way (in this case Lake Temiscouta).
Westward Ho! in Devon is only other one using an exclamation mark.( The village name comes from the title of Charles Kingsley's novel Westward Ho! (1855), which was set in nearby Bideford. The book was a bestseller, and entrepreneurs saw the opportunity to develop tourism in the area.)
A barleycorn is 1/36 of a foot, or 1/3 of an inch.
Catgut has nothing to do with cats (comes from 'kit', a small fiddle). Tidal waves aren'ttidal. Silkworms aren't worms.
The first city nicknamed Gotham was Newcastle upon Tyne. 'Gotham' was originally any backward country village, and was originally applied to Newcastle by Londoners as a sneer. But then lost perjorative sense and became just shorthand for the city. The usage predates references to New York as Gotham.
Boondocks comes from Tagalog word for mountain bundok and entered English sometime after the American occupation of Philippines early C20.
If your second toe is longer than your big toe, you have a 'Greek foot'
Underhosenbugler is glorious German slang for a dickhead. Literally 'someone who irons his underpants'
The word 'run' has 645 meanings listed in the OED.
A dashboard was originallt a wooden screen that protected the driver of a horse-drawn carriage from the mud thrown up ('dashed') by the horses' hooves.
A fossil word isone which only remoans in language as part of a saying or catchphrase, such as the immemorial in 'time immemorial', petard asi 'hoist with yourown petard'.
Theword impeticos appears in Twevth Night. Nobody is sure what it means.
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