What is the origin of ‘fuddy-duddy’?

I was surprised to find that the EL&U spellchecker refused ‘fuddy-duddy’ and was disappointed not to find any further information in the EL&U archives, so I branched out on my own. Phrases.org states : Duddy was a Scottish term meaning ragged – duds having been used to refer to rough tattered clothes since the 15th … Read more

Does ‘doolally’ have an alternate AmE meaning to the BrE?

The meaning of ‘doolally’ and ‘doolally tap’ originating from the Indian town of Deolali (‘tap’ being a reference to tapa, the Sanskrit word for fever) have been well documented on EL&U. But a similar question on World Wide Words prompted the following : Rather curiously, some American subscribers have mentioned that doolally is also known … Read more

Why does “tar” mean “thank you”?

I was wondering on where the origins of the word tar to mean thank you came from. I have reached tar and have come up with this definition Tar is a dark brown or black viscous liquid of hydrocarbons and free carbon, obtained from a wide variety of organic materials through destructive distillation. How does … Read more

Where does the word stoothing come from? Is it used in any other contexts apart from “stoothing wall”?

My father uses the expression "stoothing wall" to refer to a stud or internal wall. What is the origin of the word "stoothing" ? Is it ever used in any contexts other than "stoothing wall"? I can’t find it in reputable dictionaries, e.g. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/ Answer "Stoothing" is a (colloquial1) dialect for studding/battening/lathing and plastering. The … Read more

When was the term “Web site” (or “website”) first used?

I’ve been researching the origins of the World Wide Web, so basically sifting through CERN reports and Usenet posts from 1989-1993, but I’ve noticed that the terms “Web site,” “website,” “web-site,” and “web site” appear nowhere. I’ve tried Google ngrams, but receive way too many false positives (i.e. links from updated editions and the like). … Read more

What is the origin of “bend the rules”?

A while ago, I read somewhere that the origin of bend the rules is attributed to a tool called lesbian rule ……………………….. To adjust to arbitrary curved shapes a flexible rule (plastic with lead spine) is used. This has no inner tension, so control points did not work properly. Sometimes it was called lesbian rule. … Read more

What are the origin and history of the forms and meanings of the phrase “top flight”?

As used in the following sentence: Another trick a lot of top-flight engineers use is clipping the signal before the limiter, to reduce the work the limiter has to do to peaks. Answer Eric Partridge, Tom Dalzell & Terry Victor, The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, volume 2: J–Z (2006) asserts that … Read more

What is the origin and meaning of the term “Butt Buddies”?

Today, in the midst of chatting on other SE sites, the term “bum buddies” was used. Some other users took this to be offensive, saying that it was just a slightly less egregious version of “butt buddies”. I was not offended by the term, but others informed me that it has homosexual connotations. I always … Read more

What’s the origin of the phrase “show true colours?”

I wonder if someone knows the actual origin and oldest printed record of the idiom "show true colours?" Other than this popular theory (seems not real to me): This phrase dates back to the 1700s. It has a nautical origin and refers to the color of the flag which every ship is required to fly … Read more