Top 10 Unexpected Etymologies
My Top 10 in The New Review, the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, today is of words with surprising origins.
My favourite is tawdry: early 17th century; short for tawdry lace, contraction of St Audrey’s lace, after the patron saint of Ely, where cheap finery was sold at a fair.
More of interest on gerrymander and tawdry from Malcolm Redfellow here.
Thanks to Andrew Denny for an additional nomination: blurb, named after Miss Belinda Blurb, a fictional endorser created by Gelett Burgess, an American wit, in 1907.
I could also have had filibuster (although the online Oxford Dictionary fails to trace it all the way back: originally a pirate or freebooter, from German Freibeuter, for free and booty, through French fribustier or flibustier to Spanish filibustero); effete (which originally meant worn out by bearing young); jejune (originally fasting, barren); and nondescript (the Oxford Dictionary says “late 17th century: in the sense ‘not previously described or identified scientifically’”, which is not a sense in which it is used today).Tagged in: etymology, top10
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