Saturday, December 07, 2013
Ten Words with Surprising Pasts
By OFW editor:
Published: July 09, 2013
Words. We interact with them every day. They’re free, portable and they let us communicate our feelings. Unfortunately, it turns out that some of the words that we thought we could trust, that we believed were solid, decent words, were lying to us about who they really are. Just like finding out that the lovable elderly man from down the street used to boil babies for dinner, the origins of these ten English words surprise the pants off of you:
Ah, the word wife makes you think of wholesome love, weddings, and babies. It might also conjure more racy images like “wife-swapping,” but that’s still a happy thought, no? I suppose it depends on your wife compared to his wife. There’s definitely nothing shameful about being a wife. It's a respectable title to be sure. Or is it? Well the exact origin of the word “wife” is not really clear, but some linguists suggest it came from the root “ghwibh,” which means “shame.” Shame for what? Look at your husband. It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?
We love sidekicks, don’t we? From Batman’s Robin to Phineas’s Ferb, sidekicks hold a special place in our hearts. But have you ever wondered where the word “sidekick” came from? I’ve always believed it was derived from the way the sidekick always gets a kick in the ass while the hero gets all the chicks. But no, I was wrong. The word can be traced back to pick-pockets who used their own secret language to identify different types of pockets. The one on the side of your pants was the kick or the sidekick, and obviously it was one of the most difficult pockets to pick. I mean, no man can ignore fingers near his balls, right? Over time, “sidekick” came to mean someone or something that is always by your side. Aw, that’s nice.
“Gibberish,” is a type of nonsensical, meaningless chatter or writing. You know, like the kind you do when you’ve had too much tequila. But where did “gibberish” come from? Racist bastards. No, I’m not kidding. Gibberish is believed to have come from the word “jabber” which was a word used to describe the language of Gypsies. Not by the Gypsies, but others who were rather condescending and whatnot toward them. I mean, they sounded absolutely ridiculous speaking any other language than English, right? At one point gypsy and jabber got mushed together and we ended up with “gibberish” which really means the language of Gypsies.
Unless you’re a mentally challenged jock who took too many footballs to the head, you probably don’t often use a word like decimate. Most people believe it basically means “to kill” or “destroy,” and that’s pretty close. As I’ve mentioned before, the word has nothing to do with large-scale destruction. Since people are still using it wrong, I'll repeat its definition. It comes from the Ancient Roman “decimatio,” which means “the removal of a tenth.” Decimation was a punishment for folks that rebelled or pissed the Romans off in some other way, where one in ten people was picked out in a lottery of sorts. This tenth person was then beaten to death by the remaining nine. Yes, most likely their friends and family. No, you didn’t have a choice. It was beat or be beaten. Because the Romans were badasses like that.
Chances are if you were an eighties baby you either called someone or were called a cretin. This went along with butthead, assface and whatever other creative names the rest of us space cadets could think up. It’s actually a genuine medical condition (cretinism), which describes a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth due to untreated congenital hypothyroidism, often caused by maternal hypothyroidism. Yes, you should feel like an ass for using this word that way. Shame.
When you hear the word “punk” you almost certainly think of the best Halloween costume of 1995. But its origins have nothing to do with rock music. What was a punk originally? Whores. Not so cool now, are you? The original meaning of “punk” was first recorded in the 16th century as “harlot” or “prostitute.” Words change because this is English and we’re fucktards that way, and punk eventually evolved. After a few years, punk came to mean “homosexual.” About 100 years ago, it changed to mean “young criminal.” Then, when the music industry came up with neon hair and mesh shirts, we had “Punk,” the music genre. Bunch of delinquent whores. Yep. That about sums it up. And we love it.
For you youngsters in the crowd, I’ll explain what a jukebox is. You have this machine with records (or CDs) inside. You pay a quarter…or whatever, and pick a song. Said machine plays your song much to your delight. Now the modern belief that one shouldn’t’ have to actually pay for music in a public place has squeezed the fabulous jukebox out of existence. But this isn’t the origin of the word “jukebox.” It’s those whores again. There are many theories about the origin of the word “juke,” but the best one traces the word to the West African word “juk,” which means, “a brothel.” It makes sense. Sticking money in a slot for temporary entertainment.
I love vanilla. Do you love vanilla? It makes me think of cookies and ice cream and smells like heaven. I’m about to ruin your love affair with vanilla. The vanilla plant was originally named “vainilla” which goes all the way back to the Latin “vagina.” Apparently the guy who found the plant said, “hey, they look like sheaths, and also vaginas.” So they went with the Latin ford for vagina, which is translated to mean “sheath.” And now you know why women bathe in that shit and men can’t help but be drawn to it.
Has anyone else ever noticed that the word pencil is perilously close in spelling to “penis?” If you’ve ever been twelve, then you have. Well, your observation and silly jackassery was close to the truth. “Pencil” does basically mean “penis.” Its origins come from its predecessor, the brush, which originated from tail, which in Latin is “penis.” Now you know. Stop chewing those things. Have I confused you? It’s explained better
Most of us might think that hysteric means to act all freaked out and stupid. Right? That’s what I thought. But the origins are actually…insulting. “Hysteric” comes from the Greek “hysterikos,” which means “belonging to the womb.” When you act hysterical it basically means you’re acting as though you had a womb--like a woman. You know, what with your uncontrolled emotions and unpredictable outbursts. Pfft. Probably made up by a man. Asshole.
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