Story Time

The fact is, man is an etymologizing animal. He abhors the vacuum of an unmeaning word. If it seems lifeless, he reads a new soul into it, and often, like an unskillful necromancer, spirits the wrong soul into the wrong body.

The Reverend A. Smythe Palmer, Folk-Etymology, 1890

Red bullet The term hot dog was coined in the early 1900s by a cartoonist who couldn't spell "dachshund."

Red bullet A choice cut of beef taken from the upper hindquarter (i.e., the loin) of a cow is called sirloin because an English king was once so delighted with his meal that he knighted the meat, dubbing it "Sir Loin."

Red bullet Pumpernickel bread is so named because a Frenchman derisively declared it was fit only for his horse, Nicol. ("C'est du pain pour Nicol.")

Red bullet Brass monkeys were small brass plates used to hold cannonballs on the decks of sailing ships.

Red bullet The word gringo comes from Mexicans' overhearing American soldiers sing the song "Green Grow the Lilacs" during the Mexican-American War.

Green bullet 420 entered drug parlance as a term signifying the time to light up a joint.

Yellow bullet The term 86 (get rid of someone or something) entered the language as part of a restaurant code.

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