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Thread: Wordhunt-origins of words and phrases

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    Lady of Smilies Nightshade's Avatar
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    Wordhunt-origins of words and phrases

    I thought this might be interesting not news but interesting none the less
    Quote Originally Posted by bbc
    Balderdash & Piffle explores the fabulous stories behind the words and phrases we use everyday.


    The series is made in partnership with the Oxford English Dictionary, which aims to be a definitive record of the English language. Through the series, the BBC and the OED have launched a national Wordhunt. Together, we are appealing to the public to help solve some of the most intriguing word mysteries in English by hunting for evidence as to when and why certain words and phrases were born. The prize – to help rewrite the dictionary and earn these words and phrases their rightful place in history.

    By visiting the Oxford English Dictionary online from 2 January you can:
    See the OED's newly revised words rewritten with help from Wordhunters.
    See all the other words from the programme.
    Search for any of the thousands of words beginning with this week’s letter in the OED.

    Join the Wordhunt

    Did you read about mingers with mullets pulling moonies before 1990? And do you know how they got their names? The Wordhunt continues…
    The OED seeks to find the earliest verifiable usage of every single word in the English language, a task that has always required the help of the public.

    The BBC's Balderdash & Piffle series and the OED have been asking for your help to solve 50 of the most intriguing word mysteries in the English language. The response has been phenomenal, and our inbox has been overflowing with pieces of evidence which you can see week-by-week in the series. You've sent us school magazines, sitcom scripts and fanzines that pre-date the dictionary’s current evidence, and which provide clues to the history of some 'origin unknown' terms.

    For example, when the OED asked for evidence of the word bomber jacket before 1973, you sent in stylish adverts from the Forties and Fifties.

    In fact, Wordhunters have provided earlier evidence for 23 of our appeal words! Watch Balderdash and Piffle to see how Wordhunters have helped to rewrite the dictionary by providing earlier examples of the words pass-the-parcel, nip and tuck, smart-casual and many more....

    But the work is far from finished. There are still many words on our appeal list that remain a mystery.



    Click on a word to see what the Oxford English Dictionary says about it, and how you can contribute. The 50 words on the appeal list all have a date next to them, corresponding to the earliest evidence the dictionary currently has for that word or phrase. Can you beat that?

    [* Origin unknown or origin uncertain. The dates in brackets after the words refer to the earliest verified usage.]

    We're particuarly interested to hear from you on the origins of the following words as no one has yet managed beat the dictionary.

    bog-standard [1983]
    bouncy castle [1986]
    minger [1995]
    moony, moonie [1990]
    mullet* (hairstyle) [1994]
    nerd* [1951]
    phwoar [1980]
    pick'n'mix [1959]
    pop one's clogs [1977]
    Or perhaps you can find even earlier evidence on the following list than other Wordhunters have come up with so far?

    back to square one* [1960]
    balti* [1984]
    Beeb [1967]
    boffin* [1941]
    bomber jacket [1973]
    chattering classes [1985]
    codswallop* [1963]
    Crimble [1963]
    cyberspace [1982]
    cyborg [1960]
    ditsy* [1978]
    dosh* [1953]
    full monty* [1985]
    gas mark [1963]
    gay (homosexual sense) [1935]
    handbags (at dawn) [1987]
    her indoors [1979]
    jaffa* (cricketing term)
    Mackem [1991]
    made-up [1980]
    minted [1995]
    muller* [1993]
    mushy peas [1975]
    naff* [1966]
    nip and tuck [1980]
    nit nurse [1985]
    nutmeg* (football use) [1979]
    Old Bill (police) [1958]
    on the pull [1988]
    pass the parcel [1967]
    pear-shaped [1983]
    ploughman's lunch [1970]
    porky [1985]
    posh* [1915]
    ska* [1964]
    smart casual [1945]
    snazzy* [1932]
    something for the weekend [1990]
    throw one's toys out of the pram (or cot) [1989]
    tikka masala [1975]
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/programmes/wordhunt/
    Last edited by Nightshade; 01-10-2006 at 08:29 AM.
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    Lady of Smilies Nightshade's Avatar
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    OED Word Appeal List

    back to square one

    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1960; information of the word's origin.

    Can you help the OED find out once and for all why we say 'back to square one'? Some say it's to do with radio football commentary in the 1920s and 30s (there are commentators' grids in which a section of the pitch is labelled 'one'). So if this is the case, it is very curious that the expression isn't documented until 1960. Or does it come from board games like Snakes and Ladders? Do you have an old game which includes the instructions to go 'back to square one' from earlier?

    balti

    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1984; information on the word's origin.

    Are you one of Britain's original curry kings or queens? If so, did you cook or serve Britain's - or even the world's - first balti? Or do you know who did? Knocking around at the back of the kitchen drawer do you have an old takeaway menu with a balti on it from before 1984?

    The winter issue of Curry Magazine (1984) contains the first printed evidence the OED has for balti. But where the term comes from (India, Pakistan - perhaps Baltistan?) remains something of a mystery. It is reckoned that the term first appeared in the Birmingham area in the early Eighties. But is there any earlier printed evidence, and can the origin be confirmed?

    bog-standard


    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1983; information on the word's origin.

    Bikers and tekkies - can you help with bog-standard? One theory has it as a corruption of 'box-standard' ('straight out of the box, unmodified'), and is associated with motorbikes and cars back in the Sixties. The OED has only found it used in that context since 1983, about computers. Do you have biking memorabilia to prove the tekkies didn't invent it? Or is there another explanation?

    bouncy castle

    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1986.

    Did your children play on a bouncy castle before 1986? Can you prove it in print? Written evidence for children's toys and games is sometimes hard to come by (see also 'pass the parcel' further down this list).

    boffin

    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1941; information on the word's origin.

    Can any RAF or Royal Navy veterans tell the OED how and why boffins first got their name during World War Two? The dictionary says that 'numerous conjectures have been made about the origin of the word but all lack foundation', although it does also note that earliest references in the current meaning occur in reference to scientists working on radar.

    bomber jacket

    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1973.

    The design of the bomber jacket is based on American flying jackets of World War Two, so why can't the OED find it before 1973? Evidence suggests that the term was applied retrospectively to the flying jackets, possibly when they started to become used as fashionable garments in Civvy Street. But is this the case?

    Crimble

    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1963.

    Did you wish anyone a happy Crimble before the Beatles sang 'Garry Crimble To You' in 1963? The alternative Crimbo dates from 1928. But did John Lennon create the word Crimble for the song, or was he repeating an existing word?

    chattering classes
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1985.

    When did the chattering classes start to chatter? The expression is first recorded by the OED in the writings of journalist Clive James in 1985. Maybe it is right that an Australian coined the term. The 'chattering classes' probably didn't create such a dismissive term to describe themselves. Do you have evidence from earlier than 1985?

    codswallop
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1963; information of the word's origin.

    Codswallop sounds as old as the English countryside. But it is unknown before 1963. Is there a connection with Victorian fizzy drinks guru Hiram Codd, or can you prove a better theory? According to the OED's record, the term makes a quiet first appearance in an issue of the Radio Times.

    cyberspace
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1982.

    Sci-fi fans - was cyberspace part of your universe before 1982? Did author William Gibson invent the word, or did he simply usher it out of obscurity? Researchers have been tracking this one on the OED's sci-fi site, but as yet no one has found anything earlier.

    cyborg
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1960.

    Did you meet any cyborgs before the Sixties? The printed evidence from the OED suggests you couldn't have (or that they would have gone under a different name), as the first reference dates from 1960.

    The OED's sci-fi site hasn't found anything earlier either - but maybe there's something out there?

    ditsy
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1978; information of the word's origin.

    Were you dubbed 'ditsy' before 1978, and do you know where the word came from? The slang term originated in America and found its way over to the UK in the sense 'stupid' or 'scatterbrained' (especially of a woman), and hence 'cute'.

    dosh
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1953; information of the word's origin.

    Why did money become 'dosh' in 1953? Did it have currency any earlier? It joined a long list of verbal substitutes for the word 'money', such as 'spondulicks', 'moolah', 'bunce' and 'lolly'. It now represents one of a set of mostly slangy words ending in '-osh' ('bosh', 'gosh' (and 'omigosh'), 'kibosh', 'posh', and others).
    full monty
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1985; information of the word's origin.

    The OED would like to know the full monty on the 'full monty'. Surely the phrase was around before 1985, but where and why? Maybe you served with Field Marshal Montgomery or worked as a tailor at Montague Burton's after the war? If so, get in touch. There are lots of stories about how the term arose, but lack of evidence before 1985 casts doubt on tales dating from decades earlier.


    gay
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1935.

    Can you help the OED pin down when 'gay' started to mean homosexual? The earliest the dictionary has for it in this sense is 1935 (as an adjective), and 1971 (as a noun). But the word goes back at least as far as the 14th century in its original sense of 'light-hearted, exuberantly cheerful, merry'. Is it odd that the noun use (1971) comes along so much later than the adjective?
    handbags (at dawn)
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1987.

    When did people start to brandish handbags ('at dawn', 'at three paces') instead of pistols? Was it before 1987 - and does it have anything to do with Margaret Thatcher? Like 'sick as a parrot' it's often associated with football matches.

    her indoors
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1979; information of the word's origin.

    Did her indoors start with the TV show 'Minder', or did the show get the expression from somewhere else? So far the earliest reference to the term comes from the second draft of a Minder script, and it's said that the script's writer heard it from a taxi-driver friend of his. But where did the taxi-driver get it from?
    Last edited by Nightshade; 01-10-2006 at 08:27 AM.
    My mission in life is to make YOU smile
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    Lady of Smilies Nightshade's Avatar
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    made-up
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1980

    Were you made-up when Liverpool won the Champions League? 'Made-up' (surprised and delighted; thrilled) is an example of a regional expression which has made it into the mainstream and is first recorded from Ireland and the banks of the Mersey. The OED would be 'made-up' if printed evidence for the expression predates 1980. NB the earlier Irish English use of the expression in the sense 'assured of success, lucky' from 1956.

    minger
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1995.

    Literally, someone who 'smells foul' is recorded in print from 1995. The associated adjective 'minging' dates from 1970, and the root noun 'ming' ('human excrement'; 'something smelling unpleasant') dates from at least 1920, in Scotland. It is a good example of a regional word which has moved right into the mainstream of informal usage, but can you find printed evidence in a teenage magazine or similar, predating 1995?

    minted
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1995.

    You've made a mint of money - so you're 'minted'. But apparently you wouldn't have been before 1995. Maybe you would just have been 'loaded', or maybe a 'plute'. Earlier examples needed for the OED's entry.

    mullered
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1993; information of the word's origin.

    'Extremely drunk': one of a long list of synonyms for intoxication, such as 'plastered', 'bombed', 'crocked', 'elephant's trunk' or 'gassed'. But it's not really clear where 'mullered' comes from - mulled wine perhaps? Any evidence from before 1993 may help to solve the puzzle.

    mullet
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1994; information of the word's origin.

    The infamous hairstyle. Did you sport a mullet and call it that before the 1994 Beastie Boys' song 'Mullet Head'? A mullet-head is 'a stupid person', after the earlier meaning 'an imaginary fish with no brains'. Is this the origin? There are other offers.

    mushy peas
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1975; information of the word's origin.

    Chippies and connoisseurs of northern cuisine, can you help the OED find evidence for mushy peas before 1975? There's not much doubt that peas could be mushy before 1975, but why did the term spring into the public's consciousness then? Clever marketing or is it really much older? Did you sell mushy peas before the mid-Seventies?

    naff
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1966; information of the word's origin.

    Can you remember when things started to become 'naff'? Was it before 1966? There are plenty of theories available to explain the origin of the term, but none is particularly convincing. Or can you prove another naff explanation?

    nerd
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1951; information of the word's origin.

    The first nerd was tracked down to 1951. The previous year Dr Seuss's story 'If I Ran the Zoo' included a picture of a 'nerd'. Just chance? There are other explanations circulating. Earlier evidence would scotch the Seuss theory, or maybe it's true?

    nip and tuck
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1980.

    Are you a plastic surgeon or is he (or she) simply your best friend? Did you have a nip and tuck before 1980? If you are prepared to admit it - and have documentary evidence - you may be providing the OED with an earlier example of the term.

    nit nurse
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1985.

    Everyone knows there were nit nurses before 1985. But it's not the sort of term that appears on job descriptions and advertisements. Sometimes early printed references to terms like this can be hard to track down. But there must be some somewhere, perhaps in an unpublished diary or school essay?
    nutmeg
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1979.

    Another term from the wonderful world of football. Players have been 'nutmegged' by having the ball played through their legs since at least 1979. The 'nutmeg' (the act of doing this) dates from slightly earlier - 1968 - where it crops up in Rodney Marsh's 'Shooting to the Top'. Or is it even earlier? And are we quite sure what the origin is?

    Old Bill
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1958; information of the word's origin.

    Can you do some detective work on the Old Bill? OED sleuths have traced it to 1958. But can we prove the link to the Bruce Bairnsfather cartoon character 'Old Bill' that began in 1915 ('a grumbling Cockney character with a walrus moustache')? If this is the case, then there is probably a gap in the available printed evidence.

    pass the parcel
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1967.

    Children of a more innocent age, did you play 'pass the parcel' before 1967? OED researchers have hunted high and low for earlier references to the party game, but with no luck. But there must be documentary evidence out there somewhere. 'Pinning the tail on the donkey', for example, is recorded from 1887. Can you find pass the parcel before 1967?

    pear-shaped
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1983; information of the word's origin.

    Coined by the RAF, apparently, but not recorded in its modern use before 1983. Just a creative extension of language, or is there a specific story behind 'going pear-shaped'?

    phwoar
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1980.

    Can the comic 'Viz' claim the first recorded use of this monosyllabic expressionin 1980? In fact, we have comics (for children and grown-ups) to thank for a number of expressive expressions ('shazam' - 'Whiz Comics' 1940; 'yikes' - 'TV Comic' 1971; 'yeuch' - 'Beano' 1979). But does 'phwoar' predate Viz and 1980?

    pick'n'mix
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1959.

    Did you eat pick 'n' mix before 1959? You may have been able to pick and mix what you bought at a supermarket before then, but that's the earliest date for which the OED has found documentary evidence of the term itself. Now is the time to find something earlier.

    ploughman's lunch
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1970.

    Did you invent the 'ploughman's lunch'? If so, you probably weren't a ploughman (why would you call it a ploughman's lunch if you were?) but a smart advertising exec in the Sixties. Does the term appear on menus or reviews of pub meals before 1970?

    pop one's clogs
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1977.

    Did anyone you know 'pop their clogs' before 1977? Why didn't they just kick the bucket? This is another in a line of euphemisms for dying which stretches back many years.

    porky
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1985.

    Did you tell a 'porky' before 1985? A 'pork pie' has been rhyming slang for 'a lie' since at least 1973. Soon it developed into to porky pie, and then just porky (both first recorded so far in 1985). But the OED may have missed some vital piece of evidence.
    posh
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1915; information of the word's origin.

    Are you 'posh', and why? The dictionary doesn't give any credence to the suggestion that it derives from the initials for 'Port Outward, Starboard Home', referring to the more expensive side for accommodation on ships travelling between England and India. (It has a similar view of the derivation of 'Pom' from 'Prisoner of Her/His Majesty'). Can you find any evidence for the use of posh before 1915?

    ska
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1964; information of the word's origin.

    Do you know where 'ska' music got its name from? Was it from scat? The OED doesn't know, and would like to hear from you if you can provide further documentary information.
    smart casual
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1945.

    Did you sport a 'smart casual' look before 1945? If you can find evidence of the term in fashion magazines of the period, then the OED would like to know. Or does the term herald a change in attitude to clothes after World War Two?

    snazzy
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1932; information of the word's origin.

    Why is something stylish and attractive termed 'snazzy'? The word is a bit outmoded now, but it was the word to use in the Fifties and Sixties. First recorded in 1932, the OED would like to be able to say more about its derivation than 'origin unknown'.

    something for the weekend
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1990.

    Sometimes phrases just slip through the net. There is no doubt that 'something for the weekend' predates 1990, but finding documentary evidence that it does has provided unusually difficult. The OED's entry is currently still in draft and it would be good to improve on this date before it is published.

    throw one's toys out of the pram (or cot)
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1989.

    This is a phrase with a number of variant forms (involving chucking, dummies, etc). It is in draft form for the OED at the moment, and an antedating would find its way into the first published version.

    tikka masala
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1975.

    Restaurant menus and reviews start to show 'chicken tikka masala' from 1975, according to the latest research from the OED. Despite the dish's claim to be a great British national dish, the first recorded evidence comes from America. Something wrong here? Or not?
    ----------------------------------------------------------------NB Ive deleted some of the "more rude", borng and irrelevant words to make it fit.


    Anyway link to the full list.

    Im sure I read "in the mint" in a book thats out of
    copyright Pass the parcel too.
    Anyway I hope somone else finds this interesting.
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    Not politically correct Pendragon's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Isn't nip and tuck cockney rymeing slang for the word "duck"?
    Some of us laugh
    Some of us cry
    Some of us smoke
    Some of us lie
    But it's all just the way
    that we cope with our lives...

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    Lady of Smilies Nightshade's Avatar
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    No a "nip and tuck" is cosmetic surgery; heres is th oxford dictionary meaning
    Minor cosmetic surgery, esp. for the tightening of loose skin; an instance or the result of this.
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    Where did the term "mind your own Bee's wax" come from?
    Do, or do not. There is no try. - Yoda


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    Lady of Smilies Nightshade's Avatar
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    Dont know dont have that I do have arather nice originfor minding your P's and q's though if your interested???

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    certainly..
    Do, or do not. There is no try. - Yoda


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    Lady of Smilies Nightshade's Avatar
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    OKay then 2 probable origins for minding your p's and q's (gentle warning tobehave in a polite and correct manner) one is 17th century french court where danncing french aristocrats were told to mind there"pieds" (feet) and queues(tails of wigs).
    the other is old london taverns where bartendrs used to keep account of thow much beer each customer drank by marking pints under P andf quarts under Q. So the custyomers had to mind there P's and Q's lest they be cheated and overcharged
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightshade
    made-up

    mullered
    Wanted: Printed evidence before 1993; information of the word's origin.

    'Extremely drunk': one of a long list of synonyms for intoxication, such as 'plastered', 'bombed', 'crocked', 'elephant's trunk' or 'gassed'. But it's not really clear where 'mullered' comes from - mulled wine perhaps? Any evidence from before 1993 may help to solve the puzzle.
    I believe this is cockney rhyming slang and a bit of a complicated one. It does, indeed, mean drunk, though some people use it to mean 'beaten to a pulp' but that isn't where it came from.

    It comes from 'Muller light', not the yogurt, but the peepholes they used to have between train carriages. They put these in after a horrific murder, the first ever on a train, committed by a guy named Muller, hence their name.

    What's it got to do with being drunk? Muller Light = tight... an old fashioned word for drunk that Hemingway was fond of.

    I have absolutely no printed evidence for this, but am fairly sure it's correct. Here's a web url for the info on one 'Franz Muller' the murderer in question.

    http://www.eastlondonhistory.com/muller.htm

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Nightshade
    OKay then 2 probable origins for minding your p's and q's (gentle warning tobehave in a polite and correct manner) one is 17th century french court where danncing french aristocrats were told to mind there"pieds" (feet) and queues(tails of wigs).
    the other is old london taverns where bartendrs used to keep account of thow much beer each customer drank by marking pints under P andf quarts under Q. So the custyomers had to mind there P's and Q's lest they be cheated and overcharged
    A theory I have had, which others also have thought of, is the letter shift between Gaelic "Q[K]" and Brythonic "P", as in the Gaelic "mac"/Brythonic "map", meaning "son". The known difference might have become a proverb to speak like those whose area of Britain you were visiting, to avoid offense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mililalil XXIV View Post
    A theory I have had, which others also have thought of, is the letter shift between Gaelic "Q[K]" and Brythonic "P", as in the Gaelic "mac"/Brythonic "map", meaning "son". The known difference might have become a proverb to speak like those whose area of Britain you were visiting, to avoid offense.
    that's quite possible

    google android development
    Last edited by thoralmighty; 07-16-2011 at 08:45 AM.

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