Origins

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    Did You Know How This Word Was Formed?

    Words are funny things. For one thing, they are always changing. Consider lit, which, conventionally, refers to “lighting something up, e.g., a lit candle.” But, in slang, lit means something is “excellent.” It’s hot, it’s on fire—which are just more examples of how we play with words. For another, they keep secret stories of the past. Did you know daisy literally means “day’s eye,” named for the way …

  2. Words You Didn’t Know Were Inspired By Animals

    Did you know that the word "muscle" is derived from the Latin word for “mouse?” And this isn't the only word in the English language that is unexpectedly inspired by animals.

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    Words You Didn’t Know Came From Los Angeles

    From its star-studded studios to its star-lined Walk of Fame, Los Angeles is a city that shines bright, literally and figuratively. There are few things that can’t be found within its sprawling, sunny city limits—it just might take a while to get there, depending on traffic.  Even if you’ve never visited, its influence is still apparent. Los Angeles’s films scream from our screens and its celebrities plaster …

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    Does The Month of March Have Anything To Do With “Marching”?

    Where did the name March come from? The name March is ultimately derived from the Latin word Martius (named after Mars, the Roman god of war). Martius was the name of the first month in the original Roman calendar. Along with January, May, and June, March is one of several months named after a god. While many have adopted the Gregorian calendar (the Roman ruler, Numa Pompilius, is traditionally credited …

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    Words You Didn’t Know Came From Chicago

    Chi Town, The Big Onion, The Windy City. Call it what you will, Chicago is home to a herd of sports teams that could fill a zoo—the Cubs, the Bears, and the Bulls (and, oh yeah, the White Sox too). Not to mention it’s the land of deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs. It’s a fantastic city filled with museums, shopping, and industry. This midwestern …

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    These Plain Words Have Very Odd Origin Stories

    Most people have fairly rigid ideas about what words mean, but the thing about language is that it’s constantly changing. Words that mean one thing today may expand in definition over the coming decades or come to mean the complete opposite of their current definition once a few hundred more years pass. Sometimes, words even change meanings entirely, leaving behind little trace of what they …

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    February Used To Have A Much Stranger Name

    You know it as the shortest month of the year—or, depending on where you live, the coldest. But, do you know where the name February came from? When in Rome Well, first, some calendar-related history. The original Roman calendar only had ten months, because, curiously, the Romans didn’t demarcate winter. (Sometimes, we wish we could do the same.) In the 700s b.c., the second king …

  8. Before X Was X: The Dark Horse Story Of The 24th Letter

    With its long, ambiguous history and multiple phonemes, the letter X is quite a dark horse. It can mean Christ, like the X in Xmas, stand for a chromosome, and even show up in friendly and amorous correspondence (XOXO). But, how did X end up in the alphabet to begin with? The origin of X Since its inception, the letter X has struggled to establish its own …

  9. Where Does The Name “January” Come From?

    If you were asked to pick which month is most often associated with deep reflection, you’d probably choose January. Known for recaps and resolutions, the new year starts with retrospection, as we celebrate successes and yes, bemoan, some past regrets. Then, it moves forward with hopes for the year ahead! So, in January, we’re all a little bit like its namesake: Janus, the Roman deity …

  10. What’s The Difference Between “i.e.” vs. “e.g.”?

    What’s the difference between i.e. and e.g.? They may be small, but their power to befuddle writers and speakers of the English language is mighty. The term i.e. is a shortening of the Latin expression id est, which translates to “that is.” It is used to introduce a rephrasing or elaboration on something that has already been stated. The term e.g. is an abbreviation of …