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English language: Do you know the origins of everyday words?

English language - by Lingua TranslationsThe English language contains so many words that I use from day to day without ever really thinking about their origins; yet the etymology and history of their usage are often so interesting.

 

 

Do you know the origins of the following words in the English language?:

Spelling “bee”
Goodbye
Teddy bear
Posh
Boycott
Berserk
Honcho
Blockbuster

I had not thought about how these words have come to be so widely used in my language but the phrase “spelling bee” struck me today when I saw an article using the phrase “sewing bee”. Perhaps ignorantly I had not realised that “spelling bee” was not a one off phrase but rather a “bee” refers to a social gathering in a community at which friends and neighbours come together to participate in a single activity, e.g. sewing, quilting, spelling etc.)
According to Word Humour, “the earliest known example in print is a spinning bee, in 1769. Other early occurrences are husking bee (1816), apple bee (1827), and logging bee (1836). Spelling bee is apparently an American term. It first appeared in print in 1875, but it seems certain that the word was used orally for several years before that.”

The blog also looks into the origins of some other invaluable words. Apparently, “Goodbye” was originally a contraction of “God be with ye” and was said when parting company to bless the other person.
The beloved “Teddy bear” was named for Teddy Roosevelt, former American President and keen hunter, just after he refused to shoot a baby bear.
Further people to have namesakes firmly fixed in the English language are Capt. Charles Boycott an Irish land agent who was so harsh with his rents, even after a terrible harvest ravaged the country, that people avoided him and refused to sell their food to him – thus resulting in his name, “Boycott”, meaning “to abstain in dealings with, in an effort to coerce or intimidate”.
Whilst an 8th century Norse hero called Berserk, due to the bearskins (beserks) he wore into battle. He fought with reckless fury; his sons were known as Berserkers and the term has trickled down, developing into the meaning “to go into a frenzy or rage.”
More generally I was interested to discover that the word “honcho“, meaning boss or big shot, originated from the Japanese word “hancho” a word meaning “squad leader“. What is more, I did not know until reading

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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