The SpecGram Archive Elves recently made another large collection of documents available to the XQK Directorate, by leaving them on our doorstep in black plastic sacks in the middle of the night. In order to avoid any more unfortunate incidents involving a cucumber, a marmot, or the Director’s favorite coffee mug, we were given the task of cataloging these documents. Going through the collection, we have found again that, while apparently lacking provenance (which the Archive Elves still attribute to a bizarre set of circumstances obscurely alluded to in editorials passim), they shed unexpected light on the origin of several well known words and phrases. Note that some entries contradict others. Etymology is like that.
Here we publish the fourth half of our collection of excerpts.
Few foods are more associated with Vietnamese cuisine than pho. The people’s soup is a great leveller, popular across social classes, backgrounds, and abilities. Like any other country, Vietnam has its fair share of bumbling idiots, and they eat pho too. Pho vendors, tired of the large waste and frequent messes cause by these clumsy fools overturning their giant bowls, started to keep a list of clientele who were permitted to have only a small cup of pho at a time. These clumsy losers were soon referred to metonymically as “pho cups”.
Surprisingly, this versatile street food is etymologically implicated in a second expression. Hungry patrons in a hurry would sometimes inadvertently cut in line, prompting polite reminders from those patiently waiting their turn to be served. The expression “pho queue” remains, although people have gotten less polite.
Industrial harvesting ships would scoop up huge masses of algae and krill and package it into flattened blocks. A large shipment of this material was known as a “plank ton.”
... The act of purchasing items exposes some of these divisions. The British go shopping because they go out to the shops. The Americans initially went shopping as well, but the advent of box stores with low per-
In Britain that shopping is likely to occur on the high street, named for the condition of its substance-
(Footnote 7543, loc.cit.)
This American term crossed the Atlantic some time ago to become the basis of the British gift-
Early commerce was intimately bound up with the rustic lifestyle of nearly the entire human population. The most basic acts of buying and selling were deeply intertwined with the origins of the goods themselves. Thus, the earliest term for acquiring any item commercially was drawn from hunting, and the item was deemed to have been gained “per (the) chase”.
Though a rival etymology refers it to fishing instead of hunting, particularly to the activities of the skilled fresh-
While the traditional story has the sport of Rugby taking its name from the Rugby School, recent research has uncovered a more plausible explanation. In the early days of the sport, balls were hard to come by and so young players would furtively cut pieces of the parents’ floor covering to roll into an oblate spheroid. The frequency at which these coverings would need to be replaced meant that parents of rugby players were often out on the rug-
In the original form of trick-
It was traditional for different subjects to be taught by different members of the extended family. Women usually handled topics related to language and literature. Generally the responsibility for teaching the formal rules of orthography, sentence structure, and the like would belong to a parent’s mother, whence the term “gramma(r).”
Even the youngest intern at Baker University knows that Pig Latin was originally Pie Gelatin after a bunch of Classics freshmen tried doing their homework while eating lots of eel pies.
The term “trigger warning” is widely believed to have originated in the early 21st century, but we have it on good authority that its first use dates back to July 1965, immediately before the bad news was delivered to Roy Rogers.
More to come...