Words and their Origins

Since this blog is called A Bunch of Wordz, it seems appropriate to dedicate today’s posts to discussing words.  Michael Quinion, Cambridge graduate, author, advisor to the makers of the Oxford English Dictionary, and all-around smarty-pants, hosts an interesting site called World Wide Words, which discusses the origins of various words and phrases, like, for instance, “humble pie”:

“The original umbles were the innards of the deer: the liver, heart, entrails and other second-class bits. It was common practice in medieval times to serve a pie made of these parts of the animal to the servants and others who would be sitting at the lower tables in the lord’s hall…However, it seems it was not until the nineteenth century that the expression humble pie appeared in the sense we now know, and some have reasoned that it did so as a deliberate play on words.”

The article where the previous text appears also talks about eating crow, eating dirt, eating one’s words, eating one’s hat, and eating one’s heart out.

Or, for a bit of movie history, check out this article about the mutoscope, one of the first devices to show moving pictures:

“Both the kinetoscope and the mutograph required the viewer to peer into a viewing slot while turning a handle. But whereas Edison’s device used a strip of film, Casler’s was very close in idea to the flip-book, in which riffling through a sequence of still pictures seems to create a moving image…The big problem with both the kinetoscope and the mutograph was that only one person could watch at a time. The promoters of the mutoscope, the KMCD Syndicate, tried to get around the issue by introducing Mutoscope parlours that housed several such machines.”

A similar parlour can be seen in the film, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the scene where Winona meets up with the white wolf).

Don’t forget to check out Mr. Quinion’s numerous book publications, all having to do with odd facts about words and all of which would make great Christmas gifts for your own smarty-pants or bibliophile friends.

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