Is the use of the word “cracker” as a racial slur so common that it cannot safely be used to refer to certain hackers?

I always liked to use the word “crackers” to refer to people who overcome computer software or security restrictions, as opposed to “hackers,” which (supposedly) originally meant people skilled at computing. A while ago, I used the word in my conversation with a speaker of AmE, who did not know of that use of the … Read more

How did “to draw” shift to mean “to depict with lines”?

“To draw” originally meant “to drag, pull”, and it’s pretty easy to make sense of the many meanings of the verb with that in mind. Draw a sword, draw a card, draw water from a well, draw breath, a drawer, withdraw, … Even for the most farfetched ones, I can see the figurative stretch. But … Read more

How did “womanizer” develop its current meaning?

A womanizer is: a man who always seems to have a new girlfriend, and who has no hesitation about starting up a new relationship before he’s ended the last one. Usually, these relationships are sexual and don’t last long. The noun womanizer comes from the verb womanize. ( to womanize: 1590s, “to make effeminate,” from … Read more

Linguistic connection between the geophysical “bluff” and the deceptive “bluff”?

I know that words can have their etymology independent of words that share the same spelling, but according to Etymology Dictionary, both the geophysical “Bluff” and the deceptive “Bluff” originate in the Dutch language. But… what is the linguistic connection between them? The first usage is the geophysical bluff: “broad, vertical cliff,” 1680s, from bluff … Read more

Timeline of semantic change of the term “social justice warrior” (SJW)

We have a question about the origin of “SJW”. I’m interested in how its usage has changed over time. As a rough outline: It seems to have started out as a nonce-term of praise. Then, it took on a pejorative connotation towards a particular kind of far-left person active mostly on Tumblr, whose opinions are … Read more

“Are YOU coming to get me” / “Are you coming to GET me” Is there any grammatical or semantic difference?

Is there any grammatical or semantic difference between the phrases: “Are you coming to get me?”—used to imply the question of whether that particular person is coming to get whoever. And this phrase: “Are you coming to get me”—implying that the person is late or has been expected earlier. I’m curious as to whether these … Read more

How did we get ‘deft’ and ‘daffy’ from “daft”?

[ Etymonline for ‘daft (adj.)’] Old English gedæfte "gentle, becoming," … from PIE * dhabh- "to fit together" (see fabric). Sense of "mild, well-mannered" (c. 1200). [ Etymonline for ‘daffy’] 1884, perhaps from daft (adj.), or from obsolete daffe "a halfwit" The Oxford University Press website makes the following observations [] Daft goes back to … Read more

When is my son’s first birthday?

[Clue: he was born three weeks ago, on 23 September 2014.] Originally, as I understand it, the word birthday meant the day of one’s birth. It was a one-off event. I don’t want to quarrel with the idea of extending this to cover anniversaries of one’s birth. I’m comfortable saying that I’ve had forty birthdays, … Read more

What is the real history of the word “scenario”?

In a moment of revery, I pondered from what language the word “scenario” originated. Unsurprisingly, it’s Italian in origin, according to etymonline, but the etymonline etymology surprised me – the word “scenario” was used only in the context of drama and stage performaces until the year 1960, when according to etymonline, it became used to … Read more