Wednesday 22 August 2012

Fake Etymology III

Was the term "hot dog" invented when a cartoonist couldn't spell "dachshund"? Of course it wasn't.

Why was French Revolutionary hero Robespierre known as “the sea-green Incorruptible”?

He was said to be unable to be corrupted, or bought off (the Incorruptible part). He is supposed to have worn a sea-green cockade in his hat, hence the sea-green part.
He was as incorruptible as the sea was green.
Mme de Stael said he was pale, with green veins. Carlyle translated this to sea-green, “atrabiliar”, and went on about it.
Someone else at the time or nearer it said he had greenish spectacles.
Take your pick.

Cliché: from the sound of the printing press: clee shay clee shay clee shay. Or from the word for a block of standing type.

once in a blue moon: If there are two full moons in a month, the second is the “blue” moon.

gabardine: Invented by Alice Gabardine in 1888.

horchata: It’s a traditional drink made from nuts. The Free Dictionary says: Various folk etymologies exist – one legend links the origins of the name to James I of Aragon, who after being given the drink for the first time by a local in Alboraya, was said to have exclaimed "Això és or, xata!" ("That's gold, darling!")

loo for toilet: from the trade name Waterloo, which featured on iron cisterns

groat: "John o’Groats is called after Jan de Groot, who ran a ferry from there (to Orkney, Fair Isle and Shetland, probably). The fare was 4d. Hence groat, which is how you pronounce Groot." (Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island)

kangaroo: the Australian aborigine for "What is that?"

boomerang: So-called because when early settlers asked the aborigines what the device was called, they answered "boomerang", meaning "it has no name".

light or heavy hearted: from the ancient Egyptians thinking that after death your heart was weighed against a feather

sleep tight!: Mattresses used to be secured on bed frames by ropes.When you pulled the ropes the mattress got firmer, hence the phrase “Goodnight, sleep tight” says @LadyKentmores (George Johnson) Or is it because the mattress rested on a network of ropes which needed tightening occasionally? (Lucy Worsley)

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Inspirational Quotes 20

After a couple of weeks of ready meals for one… It’s no fun being on your own. Suzi Godson Times June 23 12

Food shopping for one has a doomed, fated feeling about it. Newly divorced Ewan Morrison, Times May 15, 2012

I’ve made a few friends in the five years I’ve been here, but it’s hard to break into established circles. Women regretting she’s an expat, Guardian June 23 12

When I was younger, all my friends would have boyfriends and I’d be the one that goes along with them and stands around waiting. So embarrassing! Actress Ami Metcalf, Times June 25 12

At the child guidance clinic I was struck by a similar indifference to outcome. Eventually I became concerned that I could see little evidence that the children and families who attended received any benefit; in fact, the majority defaulted on their attendance after a few appointments, usually one or two. It seemed to me that the people working there should have been questioning the validity and utility of the theory and practices to which they adhered. Michael Heap, The Skeptic, June 2012

Yes at the end of the road of Buddhism, what you gain is totally nothing and nothing is what you gain. You will understand the working of the universe, it comes from nothing and goes to nothing. Commenter on Youtube

Everyone is into having kids. Larry Lamb on the One Show June 6 12

You might be “seeing” someone, but it does not correspond that said party is “seeing” you. Hannah Betts, Things You Only Know When You’re Single, Times June 2012

The problem with an enlightened approach to sex is you're probably sleeping with a guy and have no idea if he's your boyfriend. Deanna Kizis, How to Meet Cute Boys

I couldn’t work out what people who weren’t in a relationship did with their spare time. Deanna Kizis, How to Meet Cute Boys

It must look like a chance encounter. I mean, any guy who sees a girl walking purposefully towards him at a party will probably think she’s either desperate or a crazy person. Deanna Kizis, How to Meet Cute Boys

I figured it was too soon to introduce him to Mother – that would seem too couple-y. Deanna Kizis, How to Meet Cute Boys

Charlie Stait: How do you get your confidence back, Colin Montgomerie? CM: By playing well. BBC Breakfast May 17, 2012

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Proverbs and Aphorisms



Everybody needs somebody – to despise.

If the shoe fits - buy them in every colour.

Laugh at your problems, everybody else does. (Or is it “Learn to laugh at yourself – we have!”)

Never look back, unless being stalked on the moors or dark streets. ‏@Zajdek

Speak the truth, then leave immediately. Serbian proverb

The best things in life are free. The worst are £27.99. Hamish Thompson @Suburbman

The only person who can stop you getting what you want is you. And that store detective. @GreySkyThinking

The race may not always be to the swift nor the victory to the strong, but that's how you bet. Damon Runyon

Those who shout the loudest often get pointed at. Eric Bachelor

Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don't see a different purpose for it now. Dorothea Tanning (See many other statements beginning "Art is...".)

Architecture is a veritable oratory of power made by form. Nietzsche (Thought it was "frozen music".)

"Einstein" quotes are all designed to make you feel bad about yourself.

The life-changing message of Zinsser’s On Writing Well is: simplify your language and thereby find your humanity.

A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it.

A severe case of Confucius Say. Clive James

All you need is love (and perhaps food, water and oxygen...) @MInouChatte

All’s fair in love and war (We have a set of rules about moral behaviour, but they’re just ideals, because “love and war” covers all human activity.)

False hope springs eternal.

He who laughs last has only just got the joke.

Herbert Spencer’s books were phenomenally popular, because he stuck to opaque but calming generalisations. The Register, Jan 2012

Homeopathy is to medicine as air guitar is to music.

Only posh people get away with wearing salmon pink trousers. @pauljmcg

Only posh people have underfloor heating and olive dishes. @TeeCee_Baby

RESISTANCE IS NOT FUTILE. It's voltage divided by current.

Terribly sincere and sincerely terrible. Nigel Andrews in the FT on Mother and Child Jan 2012

The old-fashioned returns in time as the picturesque. @AgathaChristie

There are bands who have got back together and made new records who shouldn't have. Member of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

What is a broad mind? A tendency to accept things. Giles Coren

Thankyou, Twitter.

More proverbs here. And here.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Verbing and Americanisms

We all hate verbing, but we don't hate all verbing...

“Fascinating the way they all cohese together – it’s like an avian lava lamp.” Chris Packham

We all hate:

Boating means carrying boat to the water, while scrutineering is the act of being inspected.” Times feedback on the Olympics Aug 4 2012

architect (architected)
(an object from a museum)
friend (Facebook)
front (the association was fronted by…)
(from passivate? passivise?)
(it premiered in…)
(don’t stress over…)
transition (to summer clothes, to a new life)

So why don’t we object to: 
back (backed by, back out)
(your flowers)
edge (forward)
exercise (for take exercise)
float an idea
head (headed by)
interview (should I interview for a job? He interviewed well.)
landscape (the grounds have been landscaped)
laser (Everyone is lasering in on Eton Dorney. Olympics commentary Aug 1 2012)
(give a modernist building a postmodern coating)
rain (it rained down, rain over some sugar)
rear-end (my car was rear-ended by a bike)
referenceSave water - bath with a friend!
stretcher (the victim was stretchered from the scene)
thrift (Here are six more bags to thrift!)
voice (an animated character)
zigzag (Jamie Oliver: zigzag it with olive oil)

And we don't mind nouning verbs or adjectives, either:

usage dwindle
mission creep
legislative creep
disconnect (there was a disconnect between X and Y)

invite (send him an invite)

pay (salary)  

creative (person who works in advertising)

Show me the funny.
That explains the crazy.
Get some hilarious into your life!


One of the things you get used to hearing when you are an American living in Britain is that American will be the death of English. Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island, 1995
We all hate:

elevator for lift
grade for mark (school work)
pecs for pectorals
terminal for terminus
train line for railway line
train station

So why don’t we object to:

from the get-go
for goosepimples
gurney for hospital trolley
I’m OK with that
I’m comfortable with that
postal code

small, medium or regular?
X, as in Y

More verbing here

More at Americanisms and Americanisms II.
And Americanisms III and IV.

Monday 6 August 2012

Whatever happened to...? 15

embossed wallpaper (imitating bark, with a raised baroque pattern etc)
adding sliced raw mushrooms to salad (with cress)
beauty queens

being ashamed of not knowing about computers (and thinking they'd go away if you just made enough fuss)

biscuit cutters (in the shape of stars, Scotty dogs etc)
black cherry jam
brass objects and fittings (doorknobs, fingerplates) that you have to clean with Brasso
calling Ireland “Eire”
chemistry sets (health and safety)
cherry pie filling
Chinese Checkers
complaining about the word “hopefully”
Corby trouser presses
Croid glue
cucumber sandwiches
Dentine chewing gum
downmarket canteens in city galleries (the National had great sausages)

Early Music fad for performing Bach and Handel at breathless speed (replaced by fashion for giving it a saccharine gloss)

fancy bread (became rosemary and rock salt focaccia)
fast breeder reactors
firewalking (health and safety)
flies, flypapers, flyspray
foot muffs (probably still available from small ads in the back of The Countryman)
foot-warmers (they looked like casseroles and you filled them with hot water)
French skipping
fussing about which vegetable oil was best for your heart
gender equality
giant wooden tongs for picking up hot washing
gluten-free peanut cookies
God was an astronaut

graffiti (Far away is close at hand in images of elsewhere. My karma has run over my dogma. To do is to be.)

gunnera (60s plant for your water feature)
hatpins (became hijab/scarf pins)
health farms (which starved you for a few weeks)
Instamatic cameras
letter openers
Lyons Maid ice cream
machines dispensing soup
marmite and cheese sandwiches
mosaic dishes (and tabletops)
Notes and Queries (became the internet)
nougat (it came in huge slabs)
painting your walls in “earth colours”
palmtops and PDAs
pinafore dresses
plaited ribbons of mending thread
polyunsaturates (which people fussed about a lot)
Pond’s cold cream
Potty Putty
psychic surgeons of the Philippines
quilted housecoats (and wearing them in the daytime)
raspberry leaf tea as a cure for all kinds of things
receiving lines at weddings
recipes called “something medley”
roast chestnut sellers (health and safety?)
sailcloth dresses with rope belts and reinforced belt-holes
sateen (glazed cotton with a nap)
skirts buttoning down the front
small brass bells in the shape of a Dutch peasant
sound of a foghorn
speed reading
stock car racing
sugared almonds in crocheted bags at christenings
Super Wate-On

telegraphese (unnews unjob; how old Cary Grant; streets full of water, please advise) Revived by Twitter.

the chink of milk bottle on doorstep
the ker-ching! of a mechanical till
the rrrr-rrrr of a computer reading a floppy disk
the smell of mothballs
the Swingle Singers
the weird postures models used to adopt in the mid-60s

tinned potatoes
toasted sugared peanut sellers (health and safety again)
turtle soup
Twitter novels

variety shows (they were there, they went, now they’re back)
walrus moustaches
watchdogs (oversight committees)
wearing slippers to the shops
woollen plaid headscarves with fringed edges
working parties (committees formed to do something)
Worrying that everybody would end up speaking Estuary. (Very 80s. Now it’s Jafaikan. Or was that last year?)

worrying that TV would damage children’s eyesight/turn them into zombies (They hadn’t become zombies, they were absorbed. And before TVs, people complained if you were absorbed by a book.)
worrying that your children read too much (when they should be running about in the open air)

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Jobs You Never Knew Existed

run cocktail workshops

taphonomist (they study how things become fossilised)

design new theme park rides

design fireplaces

bespoke fake tan sprayer (James Harknett at the Away Spa at the W Hotel)

punt visitors along Cambridge’s waterways (or Oxford’s) (chauffeurpunts)

make miniature hats (

happiness engineer for Wordpress

make custom dresses for school proms

distress wood to be made into “recycled” furniture (paint with several colours then sandpaper)

manufacture wind catchers (

anodise things (

sell self-assembly geodesic domes (

make stylus gloves with a stylus on each finger

manufacture dialling wands for smartphones – how about one in sterling silver? (

sell “real-looking” twitter followers

latte artist

knit wedding dresses

More here: