Origins

  1. The Sh!t End Of The Stick: Bizarre Origin Rumors For Strange Idioms

    A selection of bizarre origin stories behind some of our strangest idioms. The majority of these tales are at least ten feet tall, but some are actually true!

  2. D’oh! Words We Blurt

    Ever trip over a sidewalk curb? Fall down a step? Bump into someone on the street? Push a door the wrong way? What’s your first verbal instinct in these moments of surprise? Is it to blurt out some onomatopoetic non-word (QZ.com refers to them quite accurately as “interjections, exclamations, non-lexical conversational sounds”). Well, whatever they are called, we know a few gut-reaction examples (that have …

  3. A Smack Of Jellyfish And Other Strange Animal Groups

    What do hunting and sexual desires have in common? We could point to several things, but from a linguistic point of view, we’re referring to the archaic word venery , which means both hunting (from the Latin venor) and sexual desire (from Latin veneria, referring to Venus). Strangely, terms of venery is a collective noun that means a group of animals. And, many of these …

  4. Where Did African American Vernacular English Come From?

    Dictionary.com’s United States of Diversity series by Taneesh Khera Welcome back to our United States of Diversity series, where we travel the country exploring the minority languages, dialects, and people that live here. In this episode, we’re happy to give you our tribute to African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Also called Black English or Ebonics, a blend of the words ebony and phonics, AAVE is …

  5. The Origin Stories Behind Gaga And Other Musicians’ Names

      Before he was Snoop Dogg, the West Coast rap icon went by his given name: Cordozar Calvin Broadus. He was named after his stepfather. His stage name was inspired by Snoopy though, a childhood nickname. His parents gave him the pet name because of the way he looked. She might be known as Iggy Azalea on stage, but this Australian-born rapper’s official name is Amethyst Amelia …

  6. The United States Of Diversity: Louisiana Creole

    Welcome to Dictionary.com’s United States of Diversity series by Taneesh Khera Here, we explore the minority languages of this country and the people who use them. To linguists, no dialect is better than another. They all have merit, since they’ve all emerged from cultural peculiarities unique to the region and its people. Join us in this series, for a trip around the country as we …

  7. Decoding The Words From Your Last Yoga Class

  8. Why Does A Cow Become Beef?

    Have you ever stopped to wonder why we eat pork and beef, but not pig or cow? Menus don’t advertise sheep or deer, but mutton and venison. And, we nonchalantly nosh on veal without the linguistic reminder that we’re actually eating meat from a baby calf. When it comes to designating meat terminology, the English language has a few ways of distinguishing between the live …

  9. Where The Bleep Did That Curse Word Come From?

  10. CA Hunter

    This American Children’s Rhyme Isn’t So American After All . . .

    Remember eeny, meeny, miney, moe? A group of kids get together to play a game of Tag. Or, maybe they’re in the middle of a kickball game and the ball’s flown over into nasty Mr. Hunchguts’ yard. In both scenarios, who is it? Which of the rosy-faced children will be designated the chaser in Tag, or the (gulp) fetcher of the kickball from haunted Hunchguts’ …

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