Friday, June 19, 2009

Etymology of "creep"

Creep is derived from the Old English root that mean to move or walk with the body close to the ground and is related to the term "cripple."

The history of the slang use of the term word "creep" seems to date back to around 1860 to describe the sensation of feeling non-present creatures crawling over ones skin.

Creep began being used to describe a person during the 1930's and meant roughly the same thing as a similar slang terms like a drip or goon, but on a drip or goon that gives you the shivers.


Morris, William and Mary. Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Etymology of Hunky-dory

According to William and Mary Morris's 1967 Dictionary of Word and Phrases, the decidedly dorky colloquilism "hunky-dory" is probably rooted in the slang used at a Dutch settlement in New Amsterdam where hunk was close to the Dutch word honk, meaning goal.

However, the following story behind the term "everything's hunky dory" is decidedly more entertaining, even if it probably isn't actually true. In Yokahama, Kapan, the principal street that sailor's on shore leave kept an eye for to keep from getting lost was called Hunchodori Street. So long as sailor wandering around knew where to find Hunchodori Street, he knew he could find his way back to the ship.

A similar version of this history of "hunky dory" is that the term honcho-dori means the equivalent of main street for towns that have one. U.S. Sailors may have developed the habit of asking for directions using a bastardization of the word when in any number of cities.

The term has been in use in the english language since the middle of the 19th Century.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Etymology of Rhododendron

cue the trumpets

I always thought that the name of this hillside brush sounded like the name of a dinosaur or evil comic book character. Rhododendron, Eater of Souls, or something like that. Sadly the etymology of rhododendron is disappointingly boring. It hasn't changed from the original L. rhododendron, meaning "rose tree."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eymology of Paparazzi

The term paparazzi orginated in the Fellini's 1960 film, La Dolce Vita, after the photographer character named Paparazzo. The name was probably rooted in an older Italian term, papariare, meaning to "wander about wasting time," but it remains unclear where exactly Fellini came up with the name. The term was used in the media to refer to photographers in Time article the following year.