Hey y’all! As I was feeling appreciative of my lovely boyfriend, I was thinking to myself how handsome he is and then started getting distracted thinking about how weird a word that is to mean attractive. And it’s usually in a masculine way these days, but I’ve definitely read older books where it was for women and was mostly a compliment as far as I could tell. And yet the word itself by rights sounds more like an action or request to give an item to another person. So what happened here??
Origins of “handsome”
When did it first get used? 1400s
What does it mean? modern day meaning of attractive, usually for men or strong featured women
originally, though… it meant easy to handle or readily at hand. So my instinct was right: it did have more to do with being given something or an object being held!
and then in 1580s it started to track with the meaning of an attractive or pleasing thing (or person)
and then in 1680s to extend the 1580s meaning to items to mean generous more broadly, as in “I’ll reward you handsomely”
And you know when it finally started to mean heavily that something was “agreeable to the eye” as they used to phrase it? Not until 1848!!
I’ve become a Wordle convert after months of resisting the baffling squares being shared by everyone on my social media feeds. One of my friends today played the word “ditto” which made me think of it outside the context of children being snotty or Pokemon for maybe the first time ever. I mean… ditto? That’s a real word? Is it just me or does it seem like a word that adults don’t use? An unprofessional word?
So… what does it mean, technically? Could I defend my usage of it in a meeting or should I probably pass that one on by in favor of “I concur?”
Origins of “ditto”
When did it first get used? 1620s, in Italian! Specifically the Tuscan dialect. Go you!
What does it mean? modern day meaning is “what they said” or “same here” kind of mentality. Agreeing with a previous statement or sentiment
Originally, it was “in the month of the same name” which is… weird and specific and kind of confusing?
It’s friggin’ hot here, and while it’s usually hot in late July, this has been excessively hot for the area. Heat warnings galore! My puppy is spending about ten minutes outside and most, then coming inside to slurp a gallon of water and pass out on the cool tile floor for a few hours. I’m not far behind.
So today’s word is “summer,” and let me tell ya: I thought this would be a boring AF word to search but the results told a different story. Who knew?!
Origins of “summer”
When did it first get used? 1300s, but it had other points of innovation all the way up through 1941!
What does it mean? Hot season of the year. In Old Norse, that was starting on the first Thursday between April 9 and April 15, which is weirdly specific and very sensible for Norwegians way up in the north, I guess.
What did it come from? The word summer itself is so old that the roots I found were basically just looking at all the other words in old languages that also meant summer, which wasn’t really helpful. But I did learn a lot of other little things related to summer that were fascinating! Such as:
Recommended: sure For a read about grief through the plot points of a murder mystery, for colorful characters who are lots of shades of morally gray, for a lot of words you never knew (but will after reading this!)
CATALYST 13 points noun: a person or thing that precipitates an event or change
When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It might be even though Najwa’s trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet.
But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it.
As secrets are revealed and the true colors of her friends are shown, it’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these mysterious posts—not just to save Trina’s memory, but to save herself.
If you’re a person who hears that this is a YA murder mystery based at a Scrabble tournament and thinks “OOOOOH I might like that!!” then yes, you probably will. So if you’re already interested, you can probably stop here and just go read the book itself. 🙂
There’s kind of a twist to this at the end, if I can call it that? I think those that are in it for the murder mystery element should be aware that while it is the main moving plot point of the novel as they investigate each suspect, it’s kind of a light touch. The grittiness and darkness comes from the grief the characters deal with, rather than some kind of creepy malicious danger (though there is some of that, too). Also be aware that this is a young adult novel with young adult characters. So they do make stupid decisions. There’s a conversation early on that’s essentially “Should we tell the police?” “No way, they wouldn’t take us seriously / wouldn’t do anything! WE have to solve this one!” which, as always, made me roll my eyes. Not that it’s necessarily inaccurate of how the characters would think, but sigh. Can we just trust adults sometimes maybe?
Hey y’all! It’s been a while since I did one of these, but I was poking around on an etymology site again and was curious to see that orchid was listed as the top trending word. I have no idea why, but I figured, why not see what orchids are all about? Basically all I know is that it’s a big fancy flower that people seem to think is hard to take care of but then also say “just put an ice cube in it once a week” so I’m not sure what to think.
Origins of “orchid”
When did it first get used? 1845
What does it mean? The Latin name for a plant family, technically called Orchideæ or Orchidaceæ, the latter of which sounds like a dope ass rogue name I would use for a poisoner.
What did it come from? As John Lindley was publishing the third edition of School Botany, he decided to give the schoolchildren something sneaky to giggle about — and maybe himself, as well. And so he named his favorite group of plants Orchid. The word comes from Greek orkhis, which is a very crucial and respectable word. What does it mean? Well…
Hey y’all! I promise I haven’t been up to anything shady, but blackmail has been on my mind. This is one of those words where I wonder what degree of literal it ever accomplished. Was it at some point actually black?
I’m imagining an elegant black envelope with a formal seal on it, where just the sight alone would terrify the postmaster delivering it for knowledge of the grim contents inside! And the shame of receiving one, for who would be blackmailed if they were a holy and upstanding citizen? The secret they carry is bad enough for another to extort them!
Origins of “blackmail”
When did it first get used? 1550s
What does it mean? Currently, this is demanding payment or another benefit from someone in return for not revealing compromising or damaging information about them.
In the past, though, it was more like protection money from thugs and ruffians. Today’s meaning has some elegance and effort: I search and listen and carefully find some secret information that another may not want to be public knowledge, then quietly tell them I KNOW and demand money to keep the secret.
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? 1706
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.
Connotation is one of my favorite things about language. Connotation shapes our language so much, and in such a natural way that you’d rarely even realize it was happening. Words pick up new meanings, and sometimes are made into completely opposite or entirely different meanings than where they began.
Notorious is a wonderful word. It feels salacious and darkly intriguing and bad-boy-ish. It’s just a tiny bit dangerous, but probably not so much as to be truly perilous. Just enough to be… interesting.
But has it always meant that? Was being notorious once a good thing? Or have villains and playboys been notorious for all time?
Origins of “notorious”
When did it first get used? 1540s
What does it mean? then: publicly known or spoken about; well known now: low-key famous for something bad or negative (a personality trait, an action, etc)
You could be the office worker notorious for reheating fish in the communal microwave. You could be the mafia boss notorious for creative smashings of knees. But… could you be the single dad notorious for contributing to every bake sale for his kid’s class?
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 parti — jeu 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.
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? 1914
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. 🤣
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)