your most sought word or phrase origins?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Dec 14 05:34:58 UTC 2006

>list a few words or phrases or quotations for which (in your view) the
>or origin is so far unknown or unsettled--the ones the origins of which you
>would most like to know.

I've posted many findings and notions on this list, as have others.

In several years of such investigations, I've succeeded in decisively
(that's decisively by philology/etymology standards, not by
mathematics/chemistry standards!) clarifying one (count 'em, *one*)
previously (AFAIK) mysterious derivation: "jinx".

I've also developed some more-or-less plausible speculations ... which is
quite a different matter.

Here's one of many which I've looked at: "poontang". Dictionaries derive
this from French "putain" (some say 'perhaps', 'probably', etc.). However
AFAIK there is no supporting 'paper trail': this derivation is just a
plausible speculation. I agree that it is plausible, *maybe* the most
plausible ... but I see a few other more-or-less plausible derivations
(which I've presented here, I think). Let's establish one with real
evidence! This is difficult!

There are lots more. You can see which ones have caught my own attention by
searching the ADS archive for "etymology" with my "author's address" (and a
time-frame to keep the number of items down). You can do comparable
searches for my more-illustrious colleagues, I think.

-- Doug Wilson

No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG Free Edition.
Version: 7.1.409 / Virus Database: 268.15.18/586 - Release Date: 12/13/2006

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list