K-LIŊ Linguistic Radio SpecGram Vol CLXXXIV, No 2 Contents Writing Cult Threatening Western Civilization?—Joe McAvoy

Good Enough for Folk EtymologyPart IV

A. Pocryphal & Verity du Bius
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies

The SpecGram Archive Elves recently made another large collection of documents available to the XQK Directorate, 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.

From Soup!:

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.

From Aquafarming for The Complete Idiot:

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.”

From One Language Across the Atlantic (Divisible, With Liberties of Usage for All):

... 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-unit costs for purchases in bulk has created a need for storage. The current primary locus of American storing is the basement, but with trends of increasing language divergence and decreasing basement construction, who knows what new meaning this word will acquire in the next decades?

In Britain that shopping is likely to occur on the high street, named for the condition of its substance-abusing pedestrians. Since 1898, Americans have been more likely to buy items on Main Street. As usual, this is a fine example of the Yanks’ rustic approach to orthography. If they weren’t going to remember the silent u in colour, they were certainly going to forget the silent e when remembering the Maine.

(Footnote 7543, loc.cit.) This American term crossed the Atlantic some time ago to become the basis of the British gift-giving event called Boxing Day.

From Tracking the Terminology of Trade:

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-water fisherman called the “perch ace.”

From The Origin of Games and Sports:

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-buy and hence the name.

From Curious Customs:

In the original form of trick-or-treating, the leader of the party, who was responsible for knocking on the door, would be selected by his name. One particular boys’ name, common in Scotland at the time, was thought most appropriate for the task. As a consequence, the victim would always know the name of the child knocking on his door, and could greet him with the words, “Hallo Iain”.

From Homeschooling in the Olden Days:

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).”

From Rip Way’s Believe It’s All Snot:

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.

From Where Every Cloud is Golden:

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...

K-LIŊ Linguistic Radio
Writing Cult Threatening Western Civilization?Joe McAvoy
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIV, No 2 Contents