Why does this “Ladies First” saying exist?

I’ve been wondering. Where did the saying “Ladies first” originate? Did it originally appeared in English countries, or? And is this always expressed in a positive/polite tune of meaning? I mean, I once watched a movie in which a man said to another man “Ladies first.” Answer It has its origins in Western European etiquette, … Read more

“An Ewt” to “A Newt”?

What is it called when English speakers, over a long period of time, start adding the letter “n” to the beginning of a word by accident, due to use of the article “an”? For instance, I read somewhere that the word “newt” came from people mistaking “an ewt” for “a newt”. I remember there is … Read more

Is the term “KTV” in use in any English-speaking country?

While travelling recently for two months in mainland China I noticed many buildings with the English letters KTV in their signage. At first I thought this was something to do with company names or such and had no idea what the usually very gaudy buildings were for. Later I learned they were Karaoke places and … Read more

Origin of “to be in fat city”?

What is the origin of the phrase “to be in fat city” meaning “to do well” (financially or otherwise)? A search with an internet search engine suggests that it is of fairly recent vintage, as the two earliest occurrences in newspapers I could locate are from the 1990s: http://articles.latimes.com/1994-03-20/local/me-36359_1_earthquake-readiness I kept thinking we would be … Read more

Why ‘mention graph’ of genuflect is so steep?

Google define genuflect you will got a ‘mentions graph’ of genuflect. It’s very interesting that the graph is very steep while graph of other words, run for example, are very smooth. Any idea why this happens? Answer Mitch’s point in the comments is most likely the explanation. “genuflect” is used much less often than a … Read more

Why does the letter ‘o’ appear in the word ‘people’?

My two daughters demanded to know this. I speculated that it was artificially inserted, perhaps in the 17th-18th century, perhaps to make the word look more like populus, somewhat similar to the way the spurious ‘s’ was added to ‘island’. I later learned that the Middle English spelling was peeple or peple, which I think … Read more

When did “Pensylvania” become “Pennsylvania”?

On the Liberty Bell, it’s spelled Pensylvania. Likewise on plenty of maps from the colonial days. When did it become Pennsylvania (with three n‘s)? Answer While English spelling became more and more standardized after the printing press was introduced in 1475, it was not considered important until the 19th century. In the U.S., universal standardization … Read more

On the evolution of the meaning of “few”

Was the word “few” used exclusively to refer to groups of eight people (or things) at some point of time? There is a well-known verse in the New Testament which implies the plausibility of such a situation: namely, 1 Peter 3:20. This is what we read therein: Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering … Read more

Where does “my ass” come from?

The usage of my ass to mean me is now relatively common. My impression is that it originated from AAVE and has since been included in various other dialects. The NGram below implies it became popular in the 70s: However, that is only for the specific usage of save my ass and might not be … Read more