UPDATE
The Etymology Nerd Blog
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6M ago
Hello readers! I've transitioned to primarily uploading video content and probably won't be posting here for the foreseeable future. You can find me on Tiktok here, Instagram here, or YouTube here. Thanks for your support ..read more
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WATER TANK SUPPLY UNITS
The Etymology Nerd Blog
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2y ago
The word tank in reference to the armored fighting vehicles is unsurprisingly predated by the word tank meaning "large receptacle," but the story connecting them is rather interesting. When the armored tank was invented in 1915, it was provisionally described as a "Caterpillar Machine Gun Destroyer" or "Land Cruiser," but defense officials in the United Kingdom were concerned about the name being leaked to enemy intelligence, so, for secrecy's sake, they were labelled as "Water Tank Supply Units", which was shortened to "tank" because it rolled off the tongue better. The wo ..read more
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"EMPIRE" "STATE" BUILDING
The Etymology Nerd Blog
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2y ago
When people refer to New York by its nickname, everybody invariably calls it the EMPIRE state, with emphasis on the first word. This is a very normal way to refer to places: we all also say OCEAN state for Rhode Island and PEACH state for Georgia, for instance. However, something really interesting happens when people use the phrase in the name of the famous art deco building on 34th street. If you're from New York, you're much more likely to refer to it as the Empire STATE building, and if you're not, you'll say the EMPIRE state building. This is p ..read more
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KIEV AND KYIV
The Etymology Nerd Blog
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2y ago
If you're like me, you may have grown up seeing the name of the capital of Ukraine spelled Kiev, and gotten a little confused when news outlets started referring to it as Kyiv. There are actually a lot of different spellings, including Kyïv, Kyjiv, and Kyyiv, as well as the obsolete Kiou, Kiow, Kiovia, Kiowia, Kiew, Kief, and Kieff. The reason for all this was a lack of standardization on how to transliterate Ukrainian toponyms into English. Kiev was widespread from the 1920s onward because it was under the sovereignty of the Soviet Union and that was the Russian way to write do ..read more
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CEREDIG'S LAND
The Etymology Nerd Blog
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2y ago
The Crimean War bequeathed a slew of linguistic contributions to the English language - including the balaclava being named after the Battle of Balaclava and the phrase thin red line coming from the reports of a Scottish regiment during the war - but today we're going to focus on the cardigan, a kind of sweater that became fashionable during the war. This originally referred specifically to a knitted sleeveless vest, named after James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, who was known for wearing a garment like that when he led the Charge of the Light Brigade. As the story of t ..read more
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SUBLIME LIMITS
The Etymology Nerd Blog
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2y ago
The Latin noun limes, which meant "path" or "boundary," has had a remarkable impact on the English language. Its accusative form, limitem, travelled into Old French as limite, and in the fourteenth century that became limit. It also spawned the Latin word for "threshold", limen, which developed into words like liminal ("pertaining to thresholds"), sublime ("up to a threshold", meant to evoke lofty concepts), eliminate ("out of the threshold"), and preliminary ("before the threshold"). There's also the word lintel, used to de ..read more
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CASSEROLE PAN
The Etymology Nerd Blog
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2y ago
The word casserole was borrowed in the early 1700s from French, where it meant "sauce pan." The -erole part is a lengthened version of the diminutive suffix -ole that was tacked on in the sixteenth century to casse, which just meant "pan," and that traces to the Medieval Latin word cattia, meaning either "pan" or "vessel." Because language is messy, there was probably also some influence from the Provençal noun cassa, which also meant "pan" and probably comes from Latin capsa, meaning "box." However, it's thought that cattia comes from a diminu ..read more
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TRIPLE UNION SOCIETY
The Etymology Nerd Blog
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2y ago
There are five main definitions of the word triad. In music, it can refer to a chord of three tones; in electronics, it can refer to three phosphor dots on a cathode ray tube; in linguistics, it can be a word with three syllables; and, in general, it can be a group of three things. All four of these just come from the Latin and Greek word for three, trias, which eventually traces to the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction trei, also "three". The fifth definition, referring to organized crime syndicates in east Asia, is also related to the others but it has a much more interesting ..read more
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GIRLBOSSIFIED
The Etymology Nerd Blog
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2y ago
Yesterday was a landmark day in the New York Times​: it was the first time the word "girlbossified" was used in the newspaper. This got me thinking about how I've been seeing girlboss pop up a lot more recently (generally used to describe a "feminist icon", although according to Urban Dictionary this can sometimes have negative connotations), so I did a little dive into the history. Turns out it was coined in 2014 by American businesswoman Sophia Amoruso in the title of her autobiography, #Girlboss. This set off a hashtag trend on social media and a subsequent 2017 Netflix series - b ..read more
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BITTER CHERRY
The Etymology Nerd Blog
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2y ago
Both definitions of the word maraschino, describing either the type of cherry or the liqueur obtained from distilling cherries, come from a diminutive form of the Italian word marasca, which referred to a specific kind of black cherry. That comes from the word amaro, meaning "bitter" (because the cherries tasted bitter; this is also probably the source of the name of the morello cherry), and amaro traces back to the Latin word amarus, also "bitter". Finally, that's reconstructed back to Proto-Indo-European hem, meaning "raw". Interestingly, the sch combi ..read more
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