Do “Devi” and “Devil” have related roots?

I understand that “Devi” is feminine of “Deva”, meaning “heavenly, divine, anything of excellence”, and is also one of the terms for a deity in Hinduism” according to Wikipedia and is from Sanskrit. Meanwhile, “devil derives from the Middle English devel, from the Old English dēofol, that in turn represents an early Germanic borrowing of … Read more

Where was the term “A1” first used?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that “A1” means “of the finest quality” and it says that the term was first used in the year 1801 (with no reference): However it does not give any information about the origin of the word. Wiktionary says the phrase comes from the classification of ships. A1 ships were the … Read more

How did the Idiom “Tit for Tat “get the current usage?

I have referred to the dictionary and found the following meanings. Tit -a small bird that searches acrobatically for insects among foliage and branches. Tat – Low quality Tit for Tat means The infliction of an Injury or Insult in return for one that one has suffered. In Indian Languages we have a similar Idiom … Read more

What is the origin of the phrase, “That’s for me to know and you to find out”?

I was just watching the preview for Blue Velvet (1986) and heard Kyle McLachlan use the phrase: “That’s for me to know, and you to find out”. I assume the phrase is probably older than that movie, but I can’t find anything on the internet saying when and where it originated. Answer Early Elephind newspaper … Read more

How did ‘despite’ semantically shift to signify ‘without being affected by something’?

The quotes below substantiate that ‘spite’ in ‘despite’ or in ‘in spite of’ connotes ‘scorn, contempt’. How did these meanings shift to the ‘despite’ meaning? I quote Etymonline on despite (n., prep.) c. 1300, despit (n.) “contemptuous challenge, defiance; act designed to insult or humiliate someone;” mid-14c., [1.] “scorn, contempt,” from Old French despit (12c., … Read more

How many birds in the bush?

There is a well known proverb, A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush However, I have discovered that the earliest English version of this proverb according to is found in John Capgrave’s The Life of St Katharine of Alexandria, 1450: “It is more sekyr [certain] a byrd in your fest, … Read more

When was the first ecocide “committed”? defines ecocide as an Americanism dating back to 1965–70: the destruction of large areas of the natural environment by such activity as nuclear warfare, overexploitation of resources, or dumping of harmful chemicals. Other sources suggest that its earliest usages date to 1969 M-W or 1970 Wikipedia for instance. While Google Books offers a few … Read more

Is bludgeon connected with blood or block?

Bludgeon is a short, heavy club which is thicker or loaded at one end. Both OED and Etymonline say “origin unknown”. There are possible Cornish, Celtic, Dutch, cant, Middle French, Irish and Gaelic origins suggested in various sources. OED mentions the possible Cornish, Celtic, Dutch origins and the connection with blood: Not found before the … Read more

Meaning and etymology of “twirling waxed mustaches”

Today, the New York Times online edition reviews a documentary film. The review contains the following sentence: The filmmakers don’t villainize anyone, though a few participants come awfully close to twirling waxed mustaches, like an American manager who jokes to a Chinese colleague that it would be a good idea to duct-tape the mouths of … Read more

Why is it a *canary* in a coalmine?

I understand what the idiom means: as per this question, it means a person or creature unwittingly used as a test for danger, often destructively. I understand why coalmines: as depositories of ancient organic waste, they are particularly prone to methane and carbon monoxide buildup. But why a canary? They are technically exotic, native and … Read more