Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Long Tongue of the Etymologist (or — A Collection of Unrelated Trivia Bits)

Occasionally, I come across a bit of information that’s not exactly tweetable, not exactly bloggable. Such info-nuggets get dropped into the cyber-junk folder that is my Google doc that I titled “whatever maybe????” No, really — that’s what I call it. 

These are their stories. Well, no, here are two anteaters first. (Anteaters are unrelated to trivia but still.)

via me; see a larger version
If I had to guess the origin of the word skosh, “a little bit,” I’d say Yiddish, just based on the sound. I’d be wrong, because it comes from Japanese. Yay, wars!

Maleficent’s horned headdress is apparently called an atora, though the internet doesn’t seem to be clear on why it’s called that. It could have something to do with the fact that a British brand of shredded beef once used that name, adapted from the Spanish word toro, “bull.”

ol’ bullhead
Cyndi Lauper wrote “Time After Time” after seeing the movie of the same name, and I think that is neat.

If you’ve ever wondered why west-of-the-Mississippi radio and TV station call letters start with “K” while their east-of-the-Mississippi counterparts start with “W,” know two things: That’s not exactly how it works, boundary-wise, and although we know who assigned those letters, we have no idea why they got picked over any other letter.

When Ricky Ricardo sang about Babalu, he was actually singing about Babalu Aye, an African god of earth, infectious disease and healing. No, really.

Eagleheart was right, more or less: bezoars are actually things that exist. Protip: Don’t do a Google image search for them.

Why use the word twin when you could use the synonym twyndyllyng instead? It is allegedly the longest English word without a vowel, though any sane person can see why that is not true.

There is a crab whose scientific name is Graspus graspus, which alone is pretty good, but even better is the fact that its common English name is Sally Lightfoot, which sounds like someone your mom was friends with in the 70s.

Just based on how it sounds, you might guess that narwhal means “northern whale,” etymologically speaking. Nope. It acuially means “corpse whale.”

In similarly horrible realizations, the word mastodon means exactly what the etymologically-inclined might guess it means: “breast-tooth” — “so called from the nipple-like projections on the crowns of the extinct mammal’s fossil molars.”

the crab called sally lightfoot, via
The bassoon is known in Italy as the fagotto… obviously.

Aguascalientes — literally “hot waters” — is one of the states that comprise the E.E.U.U., or the United States of Mexico. This state name uses agua, which comes from the Latin word for water, aqua. Weirdly, the word for people from this state is hidrocálido, which uses a form of the Greek root for water, hydro. No one knowledgeable about Mexican culture or language has yet been able to explain to be why this is the case.

We’re not sure, but Bugs Bunny may be the reason that nimrod became an insult.

The French word for “werewolf” is loup-garou, which awkwardly translates as “wolf-manwolf.”

Though I guessed many, many posts ago that the Mega Man robo-dog Rush might have been named for the prog rock band of the same name, that is apparently not the case. Mega Man’s creator, Keiji Inafune, explained a few months back that the name results from an old Capcom game, Rush & Crash, plus the fact that the Japanese pronunciation of rush, “rasshu,” sounds a lot like the Japanese pronunciation of Lassie, “rasshi.”

This is all. Please enjoy! Link dumps, previously:

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:30 PM

    Why is the abbreviation for the United States of Mexico EEUU?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's an old method of abbreviation where you double the letter to indicate that the thing is plural -- like how we use pp to stand for "pages" in some citation styles.

      Delete
  2. goofy8:11 PM

    But that's the Spanish, not Latin, word for water.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In The Lost Princess of Oz, a frog grows to gigantic size when eating a plant called skosh. This book came out some time before the word had its present meaning in English.

    ReplyDelete