the surprising origin of ‘under wraps’ (concealed)

USA, 1910s—originated in horse racing: ‘under wraps’ is used of a horse that the rider is holding back and intentionally keeping from running at top speed—not from the wrapping placed over newly developed machines before their official launch

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origin of ‘double Dutch’ and ‘High Dutch’ (‘gibberish’)

‘double Dutch’, 19th century—from ‘Dutch’ in the sense of a language that few people can speak, and ‘double’ as a mere intensifier—‘High Dutch’, 17th century—loan translation from French ‘haut allemand’ (= ‘High German’), used in the sense of gibberish

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origin of ‘Brownie’ (Girl Scout or Girl Guide)

1916—from ‘brownie’, i.e. a benevolent elf that supposedly haunts houses and does housework secretly—not from the fact that the uniform of the junior Girl Scouts and Girl Guides is brown

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origin of ‘to eat crow’ (to suffer humiliation)

U.S., second half 19th century—from the story (1850) of a man who, having declared that he could eat anything, was challenged to eat crow; the crow he had to eat was seasoned with snuff, so that the man gave up after one bite, saying “I can eat crow, but I’ll be darned if I hanker after it.”

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‘marmalade’: from Latin ‘mēlŏmĕli’ and ‘mĕlĭmēla’

first recorded in 1480—from Portuguese ‘marmelada’ (quince marmalade), from ‘marmelo’ (quince), itself from Latin ‘malomellum’ (quince, sweet pome), a blend of Latin ‘mēlŏmĕli’ (syrup of preserved quinces) and ‘mĕlĭmēla’ (a variety of sweet pome)

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the jocular origin of ‘happy as Larry’

from 1857 onwards in Australian newspapers, but apparently of Irish-English origin—the forename ‘Larry’ was probably chosen as a jocular reinforcement, a variant reduplication, of the adjective ‘happy’

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Pidgin-English origin of ‘long time no see’

The colloquial phrase ‘long time no see’, which first appeared in the USA in the 1890s, is used as a greeting meaning ‘it is a long time since we last saw each other’. It originated in Chinese Pidgin English, after Chinese ‘hǎojiǔ bú jiàn’, or ‘hǎojĭu méi jiàn’.

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on errors in the Oxford English Dictionary

3 categories of errors exist in the Oxford English Dictionary: errors due to the fact that the contexts of the quotations are not always taken into account; errors perhaps due to lack of coordination between lexicographers; erroneous dating of quotations.

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folk-etymological origin of ‘squirrel’

Greek ‘skíouros’, ultimate origin of ‘squirrel’: folk-etymologically interpreted as meaning ‘shadow-tailed’ because when the animal sits erect, it raises its tail up against its back and over its head as if to shade itself

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