a word invented by Jonathan Swift: ‘yahoo’

‘yahoo’: rude, noisy or violent person—word invented by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) as the name of a race of brutish creatures resembling men in Gulliver’s Travels (1726)—came to be applied to the orang-utan

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original sense of ‘chop and change’: ‘barter and exchange’

The phrase to chop and change means to change one’s opinions or behaviour repeatedly and abruptly. Here, chop originally meant to barter, and change meant to make an exchange with; in other words, this was an alliterative repetitive expression, the two verbs having roughly the same meaning (cf. also, for example, the alliterative phrase to be part and […]

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Why ‘ache’ ought to be written ‘ake’.

The spelling ‘ache’ (erroneously derived from Greek ‘ákhos’) instead of ‘ake’ is largely due to Samuel Johnson in A Dictionary of the English Language (1755).

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meaning and origin of ‘spick and span’

mid-17th cent. in the sense ‘brand new’—from ‘spick and span new’, extension of ‘span new’, from Old Norse ‘spán-nýr’, ‘as new as a freshly cut wooden chip’

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the origin of ‘spud’ (potato)

The noun ‘spud’, originally the name for the digging implement used to dig up potatoes, was applied to the latter in the 19th century.

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