Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Collie shangles

I fled to the past, searching for comfort and a bit of linguistic fun, and bumped into the intriguing phrase collie shangles. Have any of you heard of this bit of Victorian slang before?

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Because it is definitely Victorian. According to a post titled A Dictionary Full of Victorian Slang, Queen Victoria herself brought this term into the light. The phrase and the definition appear in Passing English of the Victorian era: a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase by James Redding Ware. Collie shangles appears in the Queen's journal More Leaves, published in 1884, as follows:

At five minutes to eleven rode off with Beatrice, good Sharp going with us, and having occasional collie shangles (a Scottish word for quarrels or rows, but taken from fights between dogs) with collies when we came near cottages. 

The perfect term to fling about the next time an exchange turns heated, don't you think? 

No collie shangles when in the presence of the Queen!
Photo of Queen Victoria with her dog "Sharp," the Border Collie, taken at Balmoral Castle
Unknown author - http://the-lothians.blogspot.com/2012/06/, Public Domain, Link

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Shilly-shally

 

If we lived in the year 1882, could we shilly-shally? Or, if we had to be historically accurate, would we have to dawdle, dally, hesitate, or vacillate instead? (All of which are perfectly good synonyms, by the way.)
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According to The Phrase Finder, we'd be good to go. The term was out and about by 1700 in the form of shill-I shall-I. For those scratching their heads, the phrase's form reflects the question: "Shall I?" Shill-I was added for effect, in a process dubbed reduplication in linguistics, in which the root of a word (or part of it) or even the whole word is repeated exactly or with a slight change. (Another example of reduplication in action is the phrase heebie-jeebies.)

For first appearance in written form, The Phrase Finder points to this bit of dialogue from William Congreve's 1700 play The Way of the World:
I am somewhat dainty in making a resolution, because when I make it I keep it. I don't stand shill I, shall I, then; if I say't, I'll do't. 
This is no time to shilly-shally.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Needs must when the devil drives

 

I was zipping along writing a scene when the phrase needs must when the devil drives floated into my mind. It sounded like it would fit right in with what I was fashioning on the page, but I needed to be sure that (1) I understood the meaning and (2) it was "period" enough.
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According to World Wide Words, this phrase—or rather, an early permutation—appears in 1420 in John Lydgate's Assembly of Gods, as follows: "He must nedys go that the deuell dryves." Something similar shows up in Shakespeare's All’s Well that Ends Well: "My poor body, madam, requires it: I am driven on by the flesh; and he must needs go that the devil drives."

World Wide Words adds that the semi-archaic needs must is an idiom in and of itself, meaning "necessity compels," and provided a nice definition of the entire phrase:
[I]f the devil drives you, you have no choice but to go, or in other words, sometimes events compel you to do something you would much rather not.
If you are curious about needs must, you can read more about it here, on The Grammarphobia Blog.

My takeaway: My fictional 1882 character could definitely think needs must when the devil drives, take a deep breath, and do what must be done.

Who's driving now?
By Roberts [artist] This file comes from the Bodleian Libraries, a group of research libraries in Oxford University. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47060855

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Wednesday's Random (NOT) Slang-o-rama: Paraprosdokias


Because I'm facing down a deadline and kind of forgot (!!) that this is Wednesday, I am featuring something a little fun and different forwarded to me by author buddy and dear friend, Camille Minichino.

I have never heard of paraprosdokias. Have you? Prepare to be educated!
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The following are paraprosdokias—a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence is unexpected and oft times humorous: 
  • If I had a dollar for every girl that found me unattractive, they'd eventually find me very attractive. 
  • Today a man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation towards the local swimming pool, so I gave him a glass of water.
  •  Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
  • I'm great at multitasking, I can waste time, be unproductive, and procrastinate all at once.
  • If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame. 
  • Take my advice — I'm not using it.
  • Hospitality is the art of making guests feel like they're at home when you wish they were.
  • Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.
  • Ever stop to think and forget to start again?
  • He who laughs last thinks slowest.
  • Is it wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly?
  • I was going to give him a nasty look, but he already had one. 
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine. 
  • I was going to wear my camouflage shirt today, but I couldn't find it. 
  • If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you. 
  • If tomatoes are technically a fruit, is ketchup a smoothie?
  • Money is the root of all wealth.
Paraprosdokias to tickle your funny bone.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: To a T

 

When something is done exactly, or perfectly, it is done to a T. Or would that be to a tee or to a tea or to the tee or...?

I was pretty sure it was simply "a" capital "T" but embarked on a slang-o-rama journey to discover where this idiom came from and what the heck "T" meant in this context...

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As to the origin of this very simple phrase, there are a lot of theories thrown around. T as in T-shirt? Nope, first use goes waaaay back before t-shirts. How about a sport-related tee? Once again, neither golf nor curling (the other sport where a tee is used) appears in conjunction with this phrase in its earliest uses.

The Phrase Finder delves into the myriad possibilities, before lighting upon the letter "T" itself, as the initial of a word, noting:

If this is the derivation then the word in question is very likely to be "tittle". A tittle is a small stroke or point in writing or printing and is now best remembered via the term jot or tittle. The best reason for believing that this is the source of the "T" is that the phrase 'to a tittle' existed in English well before 'to a T', with the same meaning; for example, in Francis Beaumont's Jacobean comedy drama The Woman Hater, 1607, we find: "Ile quote him to a tittle."  In this case, although there is no smoking gun, the "to a tittle" derivation would probably stand up in court as "beyond reasonable doubt".

The Word Detective agrees, and goes down the rabbit hole exploring the word "tittle."

Daily Writing Tips also has a nice post on the proper form of to a T, and its origins.

So, there you have it. You can have your tea while you wear a tee to tee and do it all to a T.

To a tea/T/tee.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Spur of the moment

 

With California's largest wildfire just over the hill about 10 miles south, we've made our list, checked it twice, and have our go bags and bins ready to load up, if we find we need to leave on the spur of the moment.

Taking a pause from compulsively refreshing Cal Fire's page on the SCU Lightning Complex (20% contained) to wonder about on the spur of the moment. Does this have to do with cavalry and spurring horses to gallop faster or what?

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Word Histories has a nice entry about on the spur of the moment and a variant, on the spur of the occasion. The earliest appearance of the first is July 24, 1784, in Jackson’s Oxford Journal and has to do with a proposal to tax... (wait for it)... watches. As in, timepieces. And the origin does harken to "the use of spurs to urge a horse forward."

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer concurs. 

The Online Etymology Dictionary adds that the expression, which they nudge forward to 1801 for first use, "preserves [the] archaic phrase on the spur 'in great haste'" from the1520s. 

And that's all I've got for now!

Don't wait until the spur of the moment to pack your go bag!
By Anonymous - Official Guide and Catalogue of the International Fire Exhibition, Earl’s Court, 1903 (https://archive.org/details/internationalfir00earl/page/n37), Public Domain, Link



Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Copper

 A couple of authorly friends and I were musing about the origin of the slang term copper, i.e. police.

One theorized it was because of the "copper" (i.e., brass, shiny) buttons on the uniform. The other suggested that maybe it was because, historically, the Irish often joined the police force. (This was certainly true in 19th century San Francisco, for instance.) And all that red hair led to calling an officer a copper.

So, I looked it up. And guess what?

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The answer is... neither!

According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, copper, meaning police officer, probably evolved from the verb cop, meaning "to seize, to catch, capture or arrest as a prisoner." This definition of copper first appeared in 1846 or thereabouts. 

As for the verb cop, the dictionary notes it arose in 1704, is northern British dialect and of uncertain origin. Beyond that, the origin of cop might be middle French, or Latin, or Dutch or... Well, you can read it all here.

I was kind of pulling for the buttons explanation, but oh well!

Image by Steffen Salow from Pixabay