Word origins just for fun!

Q: Why do ships and aircraft use ‘mayday’ as their call for help?
A: This comes from the French word m’aidez – meaning ‘help me’ — and is pronounced, approximately, ‘mayday.’

Q: Why are zero scores in tennis called ‘love’?
A: In France, where tennis became popular, the round zero on the scoreboard looked like an egg and was called ‘l’oeuf,’ which is French for ‘the egg.’  When tennis was introduced in the US Americans (mis)pronounced it ‘love.’


Q. Why do Xs at the end of a letter signify kisses?
A: In the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous.


Q: Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called ‘passing the buck’?
A: In card games it was once customary to pass an item, called a buck, from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal.  If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility of dealing he would ‘pass the buck’ to the next player.


Q: Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?
A: It used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. To prove to a guest that a drink was safe it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host. Both men would drink it simultaneously.  When a guest trusted his host he would only touch or clink the host’s glass with his own.

Q: Why are people in the public eye said to be ‘in the limelight’?
A: Invented in 1825 limelight was used in lighthouses and theatres by burning a cylinder of lime which produced a brilliant light. In the theatre, a performer ‘in the limelight’ was the centre of attention.

Q: Why is someone who is feeling great ‘on cloud nine’?

A: Types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud.  If someone is said to be on cloud nine that person is floating well above worldly cares.

Q: In golf, where did the term ‘Caddie’ come from?
A. When Mary Queen of Scots went to France as a young girl Louis, King of France, learned that she loved the Scots game ‘golf.’  He had the first course outside ofScotland built for her enjoyment. To make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played Louis hired cadets from a military school to accompany her.  Mary liked this a lot and when returned to Scotland (not a very good idea in the long run) she took the practice with her. In French, the word cadet is pronounced ‘ca-day’ and the Scots changed it into ‘caddie.’

Q: Why are many coin banks shaped like pigs?
A: Long ago dishes and cookware in Europe were made of a dense orange clay called ‘pygg’.  When people saved coins in jars made of this clay the jars became known as ‘pygg banks.’  When an English potter misunderstood the word he made a container that resembled a pig.  And it caught on.

 

Advertisements

About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States"--Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico, Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona, and Cochise College in Nogales, Arizona. She and her husband travel extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, and have spent many summers in the remote highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala with their family. Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s