I don’t know—stop asking

By: David P. CantrellA_Colorful_Cartoon_Woman_Falling_Into_a_Toilet_Bowl_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_110102-144827-481053

Life is full of unknowns, such as why a women would ask, “Why don’t you put the seat down?” Some mysteries aren’t meant to be resolved by measly humans, but some are. So, here’s a new set of etymological challenges for your consideration.

  1. Slush Fund, as in money set aside for bribery or other nefarious purposes owes its existence to:
    1. A bucket used to clean pig sties in 14th century Scotland called a skush,
    2. The Teapot Dome scandal during the Presidency of Warren G. Harding in the early 1920’s, because of a bookkeeper named Albert Slosh that testified before Congress about the scandal.
    3. Rendered animal fat, known as slush, sold by British sailors in the 1700’s to benefit the crew.
  2. By and Large, as in: on the whole, in general, for the most part, can be traced to:
    1. Rolland Bye and John Large, English stage entertainers that could do it all: sing, dance, act dramatic scenes and perform comedy.
    2. A nautical term to describe a ship that could sail into the wind (by), as well as with the wind (large).
    3. The Greek word bi meaning half, and the Latin word largus meaning copious, literally “half and all.”
  3. Which of the following phrases IS NOT attributed to William Shakespeare:
    1. A sea change,
    2. A green-eyed monster,
    3. In a pickle,
    4. Labor of love.
  4. Which of the following phrases IS attributed to William Shakespeare:
    1. You’re a better man than I am,
    2. A good man is hard to find,
    3. The game is afoot,
    4. Warts and all.

Answers:

  1. (c) In the 17th century, the word slush was coined to describe melting snow, by the 18th century it was also used to describe the semisolid fats accumulated from boiling meats. Ship’s cooks saved the slush while at sea and sold it to candle markers and such when in port. The resulting funds were used to purchase items for the benefit of the crew.   (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/slush-fund.html).
    Answers (a) and (b) are fictions of my imagination.
  2. (b) To sailors “by” means in the direction of, thus “by the wind” is sailing into the wind. Large describes a strong following wind, which allows freedom of movement, as in “at large.” Thus it might be said of a ship. “She handles well, by and large.”  (http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-bya1.htm).
    Answer (a) is complete balderdash. Answer (c) is partially true. Bi does mean half in Greek and Largus means copious in old Latin, but the rest is bull-pucky. Um, balderdash and bull-pucky, I wonder where they came from?
  3. (d) The phrase “labor of love” is from the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. It actually appears twice, once in Thessalonians 1:3, and again in Hebrews 6:10, and was used in the context of working for pleasure. Shakespeare never used the phrase, although he wrote his comedy, Love’s Labor’s Lost, before the Bible was printed. The Bard had a more carnal concept of love in mind, me thinks.
  4. (c) From Shakespeare’s King Henry IV Part I, 1597:
    “Before the game is afoot, thou still let’st slip.”Here’s how the other phrases arose:
    (a) You’re a better man than I am— Rudyard Kipling in the poem Gunga Din.
    (b) A good man is hard to find—Eddie Green 1918 song, A Good Man is Hard to Find.
    (d) Warts and all—The phrase has been attributed to Oliver Cromwell, the would-be dictator, or savior to some, of England in the early-1600’s. Presumably he instructed his portrait painter to give an honest account of his likeness, warts and all. Unfortunately, the first use of the phrase appeared nearly two hundred years later, in 1824 Massachusetts, when a lecturer, Alpheus Cary, claimed Cromwell said it, but there is no evidence that he actually did.


    David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inns staff.

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