If You Are “Ravenous,” You Aren’t Like a Raven

It occurred to me the other day that ravens, while mischievous and intelligent, aren't terribly well-known for having enormous appetites. So wherefore "ravenous"? Turns out it's actually related to "ravine," as in the geographical feature—a deep, narrow gorge. "Ravenous" originally meant "extremely greedy" or "obsessed with plundering" in the 14th century, and was later figuratively… Continue reading If You Are “Ravenous,” You Aren’t Like a Raven

The SUUPER interesting etymologies of the words “sarcastic” and “sardonic.” 🙄

Sarcastic and sardonic are similar, but not precisely the same, in meaning. Sarcastic: "marked by or given to using irony in order to mock or convey contempt." Sardonic: "characterized by bitter or scornful derision; mocking; cynical; sneering: a sardonic grin." The core factor in sarcasm is verbal irony—essentially saying the opposite of what you mean.… Continue reading The SUUPER interesting etymologies of the words “sarcastic” and “sardonic.” 🙄

The Etymology of “Raccoon” and “Coon”

"Raccoon" comes from the Algoniquan/Powhatan word arahkunem, meaning "he scratches with the hands," which was first clumsily adapted by English colonists including John Smith. (Also related, "trash panda" is from the internet, circa... 2016 probably.) "Raccoon" is often shortened to "coon," which was also a nickname for members of the American Whig Party in the… Continue reading The Etymology of “Raccoon” and “Coon”

The Etymology of “Decal” and “Cockamamie”

"Decal," a design that can be transferred onto another surface, is short for "decalcomania," from French décalcomanie (Latin calcare "to tread on, press"). Decalcomania may also be the source of "cockamamie," meaning "nonsense, implausible," from the name of a series of children's temporary tattoos. Invented around 1750 by French engraver Simon François Ravenet when he… Continue reading The Etymology of “Decal” and “Cockamamie”

The Etymology of “Brownie” (the Impish Variety)

Thomas Keightley described brownies as "a personage of small stature, wrinkled visage, covered with short curly brown hair, and wearing a brown mantle and hood" in his 1823 compendium Fairy Mythology. (Full text of that passage from an 1892 version.) So by that logic the name is based on their clothing, which—considering they were household imps—might… Continue reading The Etymology of “Brownie” (the Impish Variety)

The Etymology of “Grinch”

"Grinch" was predictably popularized by Dr. Seuss in 1957, but he was not the first author to use it. Rudyard Kipling included it as an onomatopoetic participle—grinching, or "harsh grating"—in the 1892 poem "The Lament of the Border Cattle Thief." Kipling, of course, is also the author of The Jungle Book. Here's the word in the context… Continue reading The Etymology of “Grinch”