Here’s a collection of completely unrelated etymologies — just a small pile of intriguing ones I hope you enjoy.
Why do gambling card players throw money into the kitty? Before we English speakers called it kitty we called it kit, & before that we called it kist, a Middle English word which gave us the word chest — another word for a box into which one might put money.
Many Americans point to lobbying as one of our government’s problems. So what’s the source of lobby, lobbyist, & lobbying? Initially, those who wanted access to lawmakers simply entered the legislative chambers & made their case. When this became cumbersome (& I should imagine tiresome), they were bumped outside the chamber to the lobby (where they still successfully sway votes & occasionally write legislation).
When something is false or fake we might label it as phony. It seems this word most likely came from a mispronunciation of Forney, the name of a chap who manufactured and sold brass rings that appeared to be gold. These became known as Forney rings, which in time shifted to phony rings, & soon phony broadened to mean anything fraudulent.
The idiom killed by kindness is based on an event some claim is true & some claim is folklore. The Athenian legislator Draco is said to have been well-liked (though his name also gave us the term draconian). He was responsible for the first written set of laws in Athens. Though the setting down of laws is typically seen as a good thing for everybody, Draco’s laws clearly favored those with power, money, & prestige. As the story goes, Draco was so well-loved that in response to his popularity, the crowd in the chamber showered him with caps, shirts & cloaks to the point that he was smothered to death, or killed by kindness. I find myself reflecting on the possibility that those who can afford to dispense with their caps, shirts, & cloaks probably were quite fond of him.
Comments? You know what to do.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: the OED, Etymonline, Collins Dictionary, Merriam Webster, Jordan Almond’s Dictionary of Word Origins, & Wordnik.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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