Some etymologies of varying credibility

March 15, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A SHOT OF WHISKY In the old west a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents, so did a shot glass of whisky. If a cowhand was low on cash he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a “shot” of whisky.

THE WHOLE NINE YARDS American fighter planes in WW2 had machine guns that were fed by a belt of cartridges. The average plane held belts that were 27 feet (9 yards) long. If the pilot used up all his ammo he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.

BUYING THE FARM This is synonymous with dying. During WW1 soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000. This was about the price of an average farm so if you died you “bought the farm” for your survivors.

IRON CLAD CONTRACT This came about from the ironclad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken.

PASS THE BUCK Most men in the early west carried a jack knife made by the Buck knife company. When playing poker it was common to place one of these Buck Knives in front of the dealer so that everyone knew who he was. When it was time for a new dealer the deck of cards and the knife were given to the new dealer. If this person didn’t want to deal he would “pass the buck” to the next player. If that player accepted then “the buck stopped there”.

RIFF RAFF The Mississippi River was the main way of traveling from north to south. Riverboats carried passengers and freight but they were expensive so most people used rafts. Everything had the right of way over rafts which were considered cheap. The steering oar on the rafts was called a “riff” and this transposed into riff-raff, meaning low class.

COBWEB The Old English word for “spider” was “cob”.

SHIP STATEROOMS Traveling by steamboat was considered the height of comfort. Passenger cabins on the boats were not numbered. Instead they were named after states. To this day cabins on ships are called staterooms.

SLEEP TIGHT Early beds were made with a wooden frame. Ropes were tied across the frame in a crisscross pattern. A straw mattress was then put on top of the ropes. Over time the ropes stretched, causing the bed to sag. The owner would then have to tighten the ropes to get a better night’s sleep.

SHOWBOAT These were floating theaters built on a barge that was pushed by a steamboat. These played small towns along the Mississippi River . Unlike the boat shown in the movie “Showboat” these did not have an engine. They were gaudy and attention grabbing which is why we say someone who is being the life of the party is “showboating”.

OVER A BARREL In the days before CPR a drowning victim would be placed face down over a barrel and the barrel would be rolled back and forth in an effort to empty the lungs of water. It was rarely effective. If you are over a barrel you are in deep trouble.

BARGE IN Heavy freight was moved along the Mississippi in large barges pushed by steamboats. These were hard to control and would sometimes swing into piers or other boats. People would say they “barged in”.

HOGWASH Steamboats carried both people and animals. Since pigs smelled so bad they would be washed before being put on board. The mud and other filth that was washed off was considered useless “hog wash”.

CURFEW The word “curfew” comes from the French phrase “couvre-feu”, which means “cover the fire”. It was used to describe the time of blowing out all lamps and candles. It was later adopted into Middle English as “curfeu”, which later became the modern “curfew”. In the early American colonies homes had no real fireplaces so a fire was built in the center of the room. In order to make sure a fire did not get out of control during the night it was required that, by an agreed upon time, all fires would be covered with a clay pot called-a “curfew”.

BARRELS OF OIL When the first oil wells were drilled they had made no provision for storing the liquid so they used water barrels. That is why, to this day, we speak of barrels of oil rather than gallons.

HOT OFF THE PRESS As the paper goes through the rotary printing press friction causes it to heat up. Therefore, if you grab the paper right off the press it was hot. The expression means to get immediate information.




Odd news from around the world

70 years of separation has seen vocabulary of North and South Korea splinter into two different dialects: “The two countries, though enemies, are tied together by history, by family and by language – but only to a point. South Koreans have incorporated many English words and phrases into their language while isolated communist North Korea has eliminated words with foreign origins and created homegrown substitutes. For those south of the divide, English-based words like ‘shampoo,’ ‘juice’ and ‘self-service’ are common. But they mean absolutely nothing to defectors from the insular North Korea. Similarly, people in Seoul are confused by homegrown North Korean words like ‘salgyeolmul,’ which literally translates to ‘skin water’ – but is just ‘lotion’ in the South. The gap has grown so wide that about a third of everyday words used in the two countries are different, according to scholars. South Koreans use the English loan word ‘juice’ but North Koreans say ‘danmul,’ or ‘sweet water.’ South Koreans watch a ‘musical’ but North Koreans see a ‘gamuiyagi,’ or ‘music and dance story.'”

A strange twist on the usual story: “The woman whose secret life as a £300-an-hour call girl made her a fortune is suing her ex-boyfriend for libel – because he claims she was NEVER a prostitute. Dr Brooke Magnanti, 39, whose diary of her adventures working as a high class escort was published anonymously under the pen name ‘Belle de Jour’, is reportedly suing on the grounds that the claim damages her reputation. Her blog told of her life as a struggling graduate in London and working as call girl to fund her studies – and included her former lover Owen Morris, known only as ‘The Boy’. It led to two bestselling books and the successful Secret Diary Of A Call Girl series, starring Billie Piper. But American-born Dr Magnanti has said she faced a backlash for glamourising prostitution after her identity was revealed. The books and series also led Mr Morris, a former RAF officer, to file a lawsuit in 2013 challenging Dr Magnanti’s version of events. He claimed her stories were based on her sex life with him. But in what is likely a legal first, Dr Magnanti’s legal team had launched a counter-claim at Edinburgh’s Court of Sessions, VICE reported. They are set to argue that claiming she had never worked as a prostitute is defamatory.

US government uses extremist’s sharia law photo in free speech ad: “The US government has made a bizarre internet gaffe by posting a British Muslim extremist’s photograph of veiled women calling for sharia law, citing it as an inspirational example of free speech in the West. The [government] campaign posted the picture on its Twitter account last week, adding: ‘In open societies, all faiths enjoy freedom of speech; under ISIS rule, no such thing as freedom of expression.’ The photograph shows Muslim women, all in black burkas, running a stall in Dalston, East London. They are standing behind a trestle table covered in leaflets and a banner reading: ‘Shariah law or man made law. Conservative US commentator Mark Steyn added: ‘Why is the State Department promoting sharia for the United Kingdom? Aren’t they supposed to uphold the Constitution of the United States? Sharia’s incompatible with that constitution, as it is with the legal inheritance of Western civilisation.’”

British police handed £50,000 worth of gold bullion and DOUBLOONS found under a hedge: “Police are searching for the owners of a collection of gold and silver bullion, coins and doubloons [above] which were discovered under a hedge in Hertfordshire. The £50,000 find was made in London Colney last month and detectives believe the bullion may have been stolen in a burglary. The items were mostly found individually wrapped in cellophane or were held in plastic containers. Detective Sergeant Karen Lewis, from the St Albans Local Unit, said: ‘Despite several enquiries, we have so far been unable to trace the owners of these items. ‘The items are very distinctive so we hope that someone might recognise them and that they can be returned.'”

Straight British TV personality rather thrown by homosexual antics: “Katie Hopkins is trying to re-brand herself as a gay icon. And the outspoken journalist and Celebrity Big Brother star has seemingly taken a step in the right direction, by acting as a judge at a gay porn competition. One of the female contestants donned nothing but a pair of suspenders and stockings, causing Katie to gawp in shock. Although she appeared quite shocked at some points, sitting up on stage with her fellow judges while looking at men in next to nothing as they danced around a pole, she couldn’t help but laugh away with the crowd during the raucous evening. Listed on their website, G-A-Y describes their regular Porn Idol night as ‘the most fun you can have with or without your clothes on a Thursday’.

And don’t forget to catch up with all the Strange Justice before you go.


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