It’s time for another lesson in etymology. For those of you without dictionaries, and for those of you WITH dictionaries who never use them, etymology is the study of the history of words and expressions.
It’s time for another lesson in etymology.
For those of you without dictionaries, and for those of you WITH dictionaries who never use them, etymology is the study of the history of words and expressions.
For example, a policeman is often called a “cop” because years and years ago, in London, policemen wore uniforms with large copper buttons.
Have you ever invented a new word that became a part of the English language? Neither have I.
Roger Clemens, appearing before Congress in the hearing on steroids, came up with a rare word: “misremember.”
I hope that doesn’t catch on with kids.
DAD: Johnny, how in the world could you lose all your textbooks?
JOHNNY: Dad, I misremembered where I put them.
The Good Wife invented two new words the other night.
I doubt that they will become popular, even if sung on “American Idol.”
I know you are eagerly waiting to hear her new words. One was “schnarfluzz” and the other sounded like a question. It was like “hrrumppffzuu?” followed by a bunch of “z” sounds.
I have no idea about their definitions and was understandably reluctant to inquire at the time of usage.
In the 1500s, before I was born even, houses had thatched roofs with straw piled high. There was no wood underneath the straw. It was the only place for the animals to stay warm, so all the family cats, dogs, (and mice) lived in the thatched roof.
When it rained, it became slippery up there and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof.
Have you guessed that was the origin of the expression, “It’s raining cats and dogs”?
The floor back then was made of dirt for all but the wealthy.
Thus, the expression “dirt poor” was born.
The straw was called “thresh” and was spread on the floor for footing and for warmth. As winter wore on, more thresh was added and a piece of wood was placed in the entranceway to protect and hold against the elements.
You guessed it. That’s where the word “thresh hold” originated.
Sometimes, the dirt poor people of the 1500s would obtain some bacon to eat, which made them feel quite special. When they had company, they would show off the bacon as a sign of wealth.
It was a sign that the man could “bring home the bacon.”
Then, they would cut off a little piece of bacon for each one and sit around and “chew the fat.”
Have you ever brought home the bacon or chewed the fat? Now you know why we say it that way.
Bread was divided among the guests, according to their status in the community.
Workers got the bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and privileged guests got the “upper crust.”
Need I explain further where “upper crust” came from?
England is old and small and the local folks in the 1500s ran out of places to bury people. They would dig up coffins to use again. Some of the coffins had scratch marks on the inside, signifying that some had actually been buried alive.
To prevent this terrible thing from happening, they rigged up a string and a bell with each corpse.
Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (thus, the term “graveyard shift”), to listen for any bells.
And now you know where “saved by the bell” (this was way before boxing used bells), and “dead ringer” came from.
A person who requested anonymity shared these with me, so feel free to pass them on, if you don’t misremember them.
Bob Sneller is a columnist for the Neosho Daily News