Two items from the NYT Sunday Book Review (the sex issue): the etymology of buddy and the grammaticality of zipless.
Archive for the ‘Etymology’ Category
A while back, when Ned Deily was visiting me, my iTunes produced an album of Joshua Bell playing Fritz Kreisler violin music, and Ned joked about my computer being on the fritz — and we both wondered about the source of the slang idiom. It turns out that it’s not very old — the OED‘s first cite is from 1903 — but is nevertheless of unknown origin, and the etymologies that come first to mind are very unlikely.
An assortment of short items on various topics, beginning with three from the July 22nd New Yorker. Portmanteaus, New Jerseyization, oology, dago, killer whale, and Gail Collins on Bob Filner.
In looking at the simile piss like a horse (here), I came across references to the pizzles of male horses (from which copious piss streams, famously). Pizzle — ‘the penis of an animal, esp. a bull’ (NOAD2) — was a word familiar to me from childhood (close to the farm), but not one I see often these days, except in overheated porn writing (in gems like “gets the pizzle drizzlin’ “).
Etymological point: pizzle has nothing to do with piss, which is onomatopoetic. Cultural point: pizzles have a variety of uses, notably as chew sticks for dogs. I’m not making this up.
Back in May there came botanical evidence that we were moving from spring into summer. In places with cold winters, it became possible to plant nasturtium seeds, because those places were moving past their last frost date. Meanwhile, here in Palo Alto, my geranium plants (in containers on my patios), which went through the winter as foliage plants, broke into bloom (as the cymbidium orchids moved into summer dormancy).
I’ve referred to these summer plants by their common names — as nasturtiums and geraniums — but their genus names are, respectively, Tropaeolum and Pelargonium. And to make things more confusing, there are genera (of different plants) Nasturtium (to which watercress belongs) and Geranium (the cranesbills).
I was moved yesterday to wonder about the whoopee cushion, its history, and the various names for it. In particular, I mused that there would be no good way to predict what the thing is called in English, given a description of it; fart cushion would be the obvious candidate.
In Tuesday’s NYT Science Times, from “Really? The Claim: Evening Primrose Oil Soothes Eczema” by Anahad O’Connor:
It may not exactly be a household name, but evening primrose, a bright yellow plant native to North America, has a large following in the alternative medicine world.
The seeds of the plant contain essential fatty acids, which are used to make an oil that has a variety of uses as a dietary supplement and folk remedy. Its most popular use may be for eczema, the skin condition that affects as many as one in five people. Widely marketed and easy to find, primrose oil contains gamma linoleic acid, which is thought to help reduce skin inflammation without the side effects of other treatments.
Another showy plant of the season: digitalis, or foxglove, blooming now in several locations close to my house in Palo Alto:
Cultivars of the common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. The etymology of the Latin name is straightforward, but the common name foxglove presents a puzzle.