In Devious Derivations
, word maven Hugh Rawson brings you a marvelously entertaining roundup of 1,000 spurious etymologies, then enlightens you with their genuine counterparts. Some wiseacre (which, by the way, has nothing to do with a land measure) may have told you that a tip is something you give to a waiter "To Insure Promptness," or that James I once knighted a remarkable side of beef, saying "Arise, Sir Loin," but like hundreds of oft-repeated accounts of word origins, they're just too good to be true. People, it seems, are etymologizing creatures, and if a certain lexical lineage is unclear, they are sure to invent one. If you hear that pumpernickel was named by Napoleon Bonaparte, who, upon being served the dark German bread, derided it as "pain pour Nicol" (bread for his horse, Nicol), you can take it with a grain of salt (which since 1647 has been making questionable tales, like questionable meat, more palatable). The same goes for condom (there is no evidence of a Doctor or Colonel Condom ever existing), crap (only coincidentally related to the toilet innovator Thomas Crapper), SOS (not from "Save Our Ship," let alone "Save Our Souls"), and Baby Ruth (often credited erroneously to the legendary baseball player). So when you're trying like the dickens (which has nothing to do with the novelist) to figure out what BVD stands for (hint: it's not Boy's Ventilated Drawers), don't be an ignoramus (which does not come from the word ignorant) --
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