the shadowy history of the word ‘silhouette’

1763 in French, 1798 in English—from the name of Étienne de Silhouette (1709-67), Controller-General of Finances in 1759—perhaps because he might have invented the portrait in profile obtained by tracing the outline of a head or figure by means of its shadow

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origin of ‘lock, stock and barrel’ (i.e. ‘completely’)

USA, 1811—based on the three principal components that make up a flintlock gun: ‘lock’ denotes the firing mechanism, ‘stock’ the handle or wooden shoulder-piece to which it is attached, and ‘barrel’ the tube down which the bullet is fired

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How sports gave ‘rocket science’ its figurative meaning.

The literal meaning of ‘rocket science’ (USA, 1930) is the science of rockets and rocket propulsion—in the 1980s, in connexion with sports, it came to be used ironically as a generic term for anything requiring a high level of intelligence or expertise.

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The literal meaning of ‘easel’ is ‘ass’ (beast of burden).

The noun ‘easel’ was borrowed from Dutch ‘ezel’; this sense of ‘ezel’ is a metaphorical extension of its literal meaning, ‘ass’, from the fact that, like a beast of burden, an easel is used to carry things. Likewise, the literal meaning of the synonymous French word ‘chevalet’ is ‘little horse’.

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the curious origin of ‘pie’ (baked dish)

perhaps identical to ‘pie’ (‘magpie’)—variety of ingredients maybe associated with bird’s spotted appearance or its tendency to collect miscellaneous articles

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the creation of the word ‘folklore’

The word ‘folklore’ was coined in 1846 by the British author William John Thoms, inspired by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s anthology of German fairy tales.

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