What I Learned: Etymology

I have been listening to Don't Know Much About History while doing my long runs lately, and there have been a few interesting tidbits that I have learned from it. Actually, there have been a lot of different things I have learned, relearned or remembered, and of course they are all very interesting and very educational and I can just feel myself getting smarter by the day.

However, there were a few interesting factoids that I had no idea about, and actually never thought to question them! For example, do you know where the word "sideburns" comes from?

Sideburns were first called "Burnsides", after a civil war general named Ambrose Burnside, who, as you can see below, had a pretty nice display of facial hair.


I also found out why "booze" is so named. It's from the Dutch word būsen, which means "to drink to excess". However, DKMAH states that it was given it's name due to a man named E. C. Booz, who was a distiller in the United States in the 19th century.

Do you know the game "rock, paper, scissors"? Do you ever call it Ro-Sham-Bo? We do. However, I never knew that there was a man named Rochambeau who was a French nobleman who participated in the revolutionary war. 

Do you ever wonder where certain words came from? Or why some things are called different words, even throughout the US? My mom's family is from Back East and they have some weird words for things, as well as pronounciations.

For instance:

Bubbler / drinking fountain
Pocketbook / purse
Cabinets / cupboard

Or there is always the coke, pop, soda debate. 

Why is that? And what do YOU call it?

What information have you learned lately that made you say "hmm"? What weird words do your friends and relatives say that make you giggle? Did you know where the word sideburns originated?


  1. I knew about sideburns because we used to live in an area rich in Civil War history! Moving from New England to the south taught me the "coke" thing. I worked in a soda fountain in a drug store and peoples' orders confused me. You asked me can you get a Coke, and now you're saying you want Sprite? Which is it?!

  2. In RI, cabinets are a type of milk shake...grinders are sub sandwiches...and stuffies...well they are just amazing!!!

  3. Growing up, we always said POP, which fits with the map, but now I say soda. So sophisticated. Don't drink the stuff though. ;)

    We have a few people from different parts of the country in our office who have funny sayings that I had never heard of before them. Of course I can't think of any of them now....

  4. Growing up in Aus, we've always called it soft drink although pop was quite common among my rellies in Northern England. I love this post and really like learning about where sayings and words come from. Another podcast that might be similar is Answer Me This (it's about fortnightly, and a English one).

  5. My husband's American cousin and I used to keep a dictionary of words we pronounced differently, and of different words we used for the same meaning... For example the word schedule. I say SKEDule and she says SHEDule. I call our sofa a couch, she calls it a chesterfield. And I always would goad her into telling me what she called the covering on the house. We say rOOf, she says rUUf. Sometimes I hear people talking and I cannot figure out what they are even SAYING and I know it is English.... love this stuff. (And that is stUUf, not stoooof) :)

  6. Both of my grandma's used pocketbooks. And I hear that term around me sometimes. One grandma would interchange with purse and the other always said pocketbook. I used cabinets and cupboards interchangeably. I did not know about sideburns. That picture is hysterical. I had a class in college where we talked about etymology and I don't really recall a lot. ;P

  7. Ha, I love this list of randomness. Fun post! I use the word soda even though I grew up in the world of 'pop'. ;) I loved making a list of all the words people in Australia had different words for when I studied abroad, like togs was bathing suit and eskie was cooler.

  8. I love that soda/pop/Coke map. When I first moved from St. Louis to Boston, one of our science teachers was talking about this very subject and said Midwesterners call it 'pop'. I was SO MAD, because I had never once called it Pop and don't recall any of my friends calling it Pop, either. Finally, the truth in a map. Thank you! =D


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