I’m such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I’m fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I’ve got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.
In any case, I thought I’d share some of this random crap with you in the form of an acronym-ific series. I give you – Word Origins from Left Field – that’s right, the WOLF. Er… ignore the fact that the “from” doesn’t fit.
My clever pal and fellow author AG Howard asked me once if I could tell her the origin of the phrase, “storm in a teacup.” Well, Anita must be British, or at least more cultured than I am, because I’d always heard it phrased, “tempest in a teacup.”
Whether you like to sound UKish or prefer alliteration, it all boils down to the same thing (pun intended). A “tempest / storm in a teacup” means something major is happening, but the ripples aren’t going to reach far. An event of paramount importance to a handful of people probably won’t be making the national news (think “Book Club Breaks Up Over Inability to Agree On Next Month’s Title.”)
So where does it come from? The earliest known reference is in the August 30, 1820 edition of the Conneticut Gazette:
You can’t read that?
Anecdote of the late Lord Chancellor Thurlow: A person once came running almost out of breath to the Lord Chancellor, saying, “My Lord, I bring you tidings of calamity to the nation, and I do not know how far the direful effects of it may spread to endanger the church and state.”–“What is the matter, man?” said the impatient Chancellor. “My Lord,” continued the person, “a rebellion has broken out”–“Where, where?” “In the Isle of man.” “In the Isle of Man!”repeated the vociferous Chancellor. “A tempest in a tea-pot.”
So it appears we have the vociferous Lord Chancellor Thurlow to thank for that one.
What’s your favorite word origin? Tell me, or ask one you’ve always been curious about – I’ll do my best to find the answer and get back to you in a future WOLF!