Posted in Book Talk

Word Origins: it ain’t proper!

Hey y’all! I got to clicking around in the many pages of etymological history of all the words in English, and it of course led me to a delightful little discovery. ^.^

Origins of “ain’t”

When did it first get used?

What does it mean?
a contraction meaning “is not,” “have not,” “are not,” basically a pretty flexible little word

What did it come from?
This one is kind of simple, as it more or less logically followed the rules of other contractions. I am becomes I’m, can not becomes can’t, and is not became ain’t, probably because “int” is an awkward sound to make and link to other sounds in the sentence.

My favorite part of this work is that it was perfectly acceptable in proper English for quite a while. The thing that tipped the word into disfavor is when ain’t was used largely in Cockney dialect in writing, such as from Dickens around the 1850s. Once people hear the way those caricatured characters sounded saying it, they ditched it ASAP. Ain’t fell into the pits of the uncouth and uncultured.

And was dramatically resurrected by humorists and hooligans galore!

Or at least that’s my preferred depiction, since ain’t is still pretty popular where I’m from. It’s not something I would normally say, but I might use it to make a point or for dramatic effect. Here are a few notable uses of ain’t even after it’s been -ahem- disbarred from proper English.

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Love in English, 2/2/21

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursdays, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! And although I haven’t posted a Fast Forward Friday actually on a Friday in a few weeks, I’m still excited enough to post these books because I cannot let them go unnoticed! Today’s is especially one I’ve been looking forward to for months, and it’s finally almost here: Love in English by Maria E Andreu!
Expected Release: February 2, 2021

Why wait on this one?

  • I’m always in for stories of immigration and moving and characters who have to learn a new culture and/or figure out how to preserve their own. Ana moving from Argentina to New Jersey sounds like it will be ripe for those exact kinds of struggles. The kind where you learn a lot about yourself and the world (in a way that’s way less cheesy than I just made it sound).
  • Add in a focus on language and I’m even more in. Ana is a poet, and what poet isn’t a lover of language, with the attention to every facet that a poem requires? I’m really hoping we’ll see some beautiful portions of her poems in her native language, Spanish. And maybe that will blend with English, and maybe it won’t — either way, I’m happy to explore the world of words.
  • Ah, and of course, young love! I love love, y’all. Last night I had a dream about falling in love at first with my boyfriend all over again. I’m really into it. So when Ana gets to feel some feelings for a cute Greek boy, and a cute stereotypical-all-American boy, I’ll be riding right along with some popcorn. 🥰


Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

Posted in Book Talk

Word Origins: was a mermaid always a fishy woman?

Origins of “mermaid”

When did it first get used?
1200s as Old English “merewif”
1350ish as Middle English “meremayde”

What does it mean?
a fabled creature that has the top form of a woman and the bottom form of a fish; often causing harm to mortals whether intentionally or not; often magical or with supernatural qualities, as with a siren

Continue reading “Word Origins: was a mermaid always a fishy woman?”
Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

Word origins: can Nick have a nickname?

Hey y’all, I’ve been thinking about the origins of words, yet again! This time, it was stemmed from my brother, Nick. As a child (and, let’s be real, still now as an adult) I was positively delighted that my brother Nicholas had the ultimate nickname, because he was literally Nick! That was as good as it got in my mind. But it also made me wonder, on the other hand, how anyone could have a Nick-name that wasn’t Nick. What kind of sense is that?

Today, I’ve resolved this puzzling mystery that’s plagued me all my life. 🕵️‍♀️

Origins of “nickname”

When did it first get used?
Mid 1400s as a noun, as a verb in the 1530s

What does it mean?
literally “a second name,” also a familiar name. Interestingly, it’s also in particular to reference a derisive or insulting nickname

Curly… is bald.
Continue reading “Word origins: can Nick have a nickname?”
Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

Word Origins: this is Jeopardy!

Today’s word origin post comes after seeing that Alex Trebek, the quintessential host of Jeopardy!, has a book out! For me and many others, he’s a wholesome delight who’s been around for many years. Representing all corners of knowledge, it really sucked to hear he’s been diagnosed with severe pancreatic cancer. It sucks a little less to see that he has a book out, and I can learn more about him than just in his role as host. It also made me think about how weird the word jeopardy is, and what it actually means. I would guess something related to knowledge or facts, since the show by that title is a quiz show of all kinds of information. But then there’s also the phrase “double jeopardy” in law, meaning you cannot be tried for the same crime twice. How do they connect??

Origins of jeopardy

When did it first get used?
late 1300s, but variations and very similar forms have been used since the tenth century!!

What does it mean?
1. a danger or risk
2. a cunning plan
3. a lost game, or a game with even chances

What did it come from?
This stems from old French jeu partijeu meaning a game, and parti meaning divided. So in terms of Jeopardy! the quiz game show, it seems that the intent is to show it’s a game where anyone can succeed. Luck is not required because it’s all based on your own knowledge and what you know. I’m not sure that makes perfect sense, but I’ll let it go.

As far as the legal sense, where you cannot be tried for the same crime twice, that seems to link more to the sense of a risk or danger. Honestly, it seems weird that these meanings are in the same word. At the very least, I’m pretty clear on which kind of double jeopardy I would rather be dealing with!

Have you ever shouted out the answers to Jeopardy and wondered why it was named such?

Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

A punny poem

I was quite impressed

by all the puns Pollack made.

He could fillet book!

Oh, looks like he already has. 😁 This was a re-read for me, but I read it so long ago that I wanted to go through it again. It’s pretty expansive in how much it covers, and I knew I would have forgotten a lot of it. What a delight to revisit this one!

(I tried REALLY hard to think of a Pollack-fish pun 😂)

Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

Word origins: how “hype” first started

Pictured: a book with too much hype -_-

One of the main issues I have with newly published books is hype. When it feels like everyone is talking about a book, I end up sick of it before it’s even out. No matter how interested I might otherwise be, I usually end up staying away from it for a while.

So when did “hype” first start? And is it anything related to how we use it today, like when something is said by many people to be outrageously amazing and mind-blowing?

Origins of the word ‘hype’

When did it first get used?

What does it mean?
As a verb: to swindle by overcharging or short-changing
As a noun (1): a no-good dirty swindler
As a noun (2): excessive or misleading publicity or advertising (this is the same for our current-day verb form like my example issue above!)

What did it come from?
This comes from the shady underworld — my favorite! They have words for everything there. It was used in reference to con men who would try to trick people by charging them too much or not giving them enough change in return after payment.

Hyper, as the con men were called (1914). This comes from the prefix hyper-, meaning “in excess”

To hype or hyping is what con men did.

In the sense that we have it today from the 2nd definition above, it’s related to the word hyperbole which is an extreme exaggeration of something. (“I just finished this book and I am literally dying right now.”) Book reviewers are notorious for this… we’re an emotional bunch. 🤣

also related: hype man/men, seen here in droves!

It’s not a new one, though!

This word also took some unexpected left turns of related meanings. Some startlingly delightful and some more dark.

  • 1700s: depressed, termed as “the hyps.” Somewhat annoyingly related to the idea that depression was a fake issue (hypchondria, 1816)
  • 1913: drug user slang for hypodermic needle used to inject drugs. Presumably related in that the result of injecting the drug makes you feel over the top and “hyped up”

and a little bonus:
Ballyhoo: meaning hype, originating from circus term for a sideshow used to draw people in to the main (paid) show (1908)

Classic cursing: a cure for all boredom

I absolutely love words, and I love learning about the way words morph over time. One of the most fun ways to see that is to look at the curses and slang used in each period. It reveals what was common, important, and valued at that time. It is also wildly hilarious, and I very well may end up reading this whole dictionary of insults and slang. It’s called “A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” and it can give you a slew of new-again comebacks from 1785.

I feel like this could be great fun for a higher-level English class; maybe something at a college level while studying 18th century literature? You know, for research, to better understand stories like

Some of my favs from this:
birds of a feather: rogues of the same gang (is that where the phrase came from!?)
to blow the grounsils: to – er- lie with a woman on the floor
gollumpus: a large and clumsy fellow
mettlesome: bold, courageous (presumably this has turned into meddlesome, or someone who bothers in others’ business)
ruffles: handcuffs

Fantastic name. ♥
One of the sources for the words found in the collection; sounds like a good read!
complete with handwritten notes, language of origin, and notes on when a word is specific to “Canting” or the language used by thieves and scoundrels