Two Questions for Journalist

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 14 18:28:44 UTC 2012


Vague suggestions have been offered, though not accepted, for "malarkey"
and "poppycock." "Hooey" may be from a Slavic obscenity.  Maybe.

"Barf" remains obscure. The synonymous "ralph" appears to have begun as a
joke (at least that's how it was explained to me ca1971), but that ety. may
not be accepted because it's so ridiculously sophomoric: (< to "call
Ralph," with "Ralph" pronounced as much like a vomit sound as possible;
cf., similarly, "sell Buicks," with "Buick" suggested by "puke.")

I'm sure there are more that now escape me.


On Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 12:43 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Two Questions for Journalist
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I am talking with a journalist about the kind of research into
> word-origins=
>  that is done on ADS-L.  She asked two questions that I would welcome help
> =
> in answering:
> What are examples in recent times of important discoveries about etymology
> =
> or word-origins or phrase-origins or quotation-origins being made "the
> old-=
> fashioned way," i.e., using methods other than searching online databases?
> Now that "O.K." and arguably "the whole nine yards" have had their
> derivati=
> ons uncovered, what are the other most significant or most interesting
> word=
> s or phrases with mysterious etymologies?
> All suggestions would be welcome.  I need to get back to the journalist by
> =
> Sunday.
> Fred Shapiro
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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