Word of the Week – Field Trip

Word of the Week – Field Trip

This is another revisit…and since we were all sheltering at home for the last months of the school year, one that we’re probably all thinking about with longing. πŸ˜‰ Coming at you originally from May of 2015, when Rowyn was only 7 and Xoe was 9, which of course gave me all the “awwww”s when I saw the picture I had in this one, from the year before that. πŸ˜‰ (Still not sure how my babies are now going into 7th and 10th!)


Since someone asked me about this over the weekend, I figured, hey–already looked it up, might as well share! πŸ˜‰ Especially appropriate since this is our last week of school. Oh yeah. Right about now the kids are mighty glad we didn’t take a bunch of snow days! πŸ˜‰

Field trip comes from the idea of field…not as in “an open piece of land, often cultivated” (which dates from time immemorial) but from the idea of field being a place where things happen. This is a slightly newer meaning that began evolving in the 1300s. (I said slightly newer, not new, LOL.) By then it could mean a battleground. And by mid-century, a “sphere or place of related things.” By the mid-1700s people would refer to field-work as anything that took one out of the office or laboratory and into the world, where things take place.

Field trip, then, is a natural extension of this meaning. It’s a trip into the field, going out of the classroom and into the world where the things you’ve been learning about can be found. Though an actually-new phrase (from the 1950s), it has its foundation on a nicely aged idea. =)

My kiddos on a field trip to a one room school house in 2014. Rowyn would be the lonely boy in the boys line, LOL, and Xoe is the one in teal and purple. (No, shockingly, not the one dressed in period attire, LOL.) They had a blast that day, and Xoe even won the little spelling bee!

Word of the Week – Grapevine

Word of the Week – Grapevine

Originally published June 2015

We’ve all heard it through the grapevine (and some of us might break into song at the mere mention…), but do you know where the saying comes from?

I didn’t–but I learned recently so thought I’d share. =)

Grapevine, meaning “a rumor” or “information spread in an unconventional method,” comes from the Civil War era South. The “grapevine telegraph” was much like the “underground railroad.” Metaphorical and secretive. Just as the latter wasn’t a real railroad, but a term to refer to the secret movements of runaways, so the “grapevine telegraph” referred to spreading information on the down-low, rather than using the real telegraph. And so grapevine is a shortening of that–a way to spread information without using typical means that could be tapped or overheard.
Word of the Week – Salary and Salt

Word of the Week – Salary and Salt

Leave it to my daughter to lean over in the middle of church and whisper, “Word of the week!” during the sermon–which is exactly what happened when my dad shared this fun little tidbit. πŸ˜‰

Did you know that salary is from the same root as salt? Salary has meant “wages, compensation” since the 13th century, and the word comes from the Latin salarium (same meaning), which is closely linked to salarius, “of or pertaining to salt.” Some sources say it’s because a soldier’s salary was considered to be spent on salt, and others say that sometimes wages were even paid in salt. Either way, salt is such a necessary and, historically, valuable item that it’s no wonder it’s linked so closely to money in our words!

And I’ll admit it . . . I’ve spent a fair bit on salt over the years. I have a cabinet full of different varieties, which I occasionally find very amusing. Especially when I find a recipe that calls for one I don’t yet have. Gasp! My favorite: a variety of Cornish seasoned sea salts.

Do you have a favorite or rare kind of salt in your kitchen?
Word of the Week – Sit, Twiddle, and Twirl

Word of the Week – Sit, Twiddle, and Twirl

Today I’m going to examine the origin of a particular phrase rather than a particular word. πŸ˜‰ Back in the day when I originally examined this, as I was working on Whispers from the Shadows, my hero was exclaiming something about how it was time to take action himself, since those who ought to be continued to…
Sit on their hands?
Twiddle their thumbs?
Do nothing, but that was far too boring an option for his current state of mind. So Roseanna headed to www.etymonline.com. πŸ˜€

I was somewhat surprised to find sit on one’s hands in the
listing, because, well, I figured “sit” would have about a thousand
idioms associated with it and didn’t know if that would make the cut.
But in fact, it was one of the few they included. And it certainly wasn’t around in 1814, when Whispers takes place. No, to sit on one’s hands comes from the notion of doing so to withhold applause and originated in 1926. Not until the ’50s did it get extended to “do nothing; be

So Thad certainly couldn’t be accusing the politicians of sitting on their hands. What, then?
The next phrase to leap into mind was twiddling their thumbs. Here I got closer. Twiddle is from the 1540s, when it meant “to trifle.” But the notion of twiddling one’s thumbs, i.e., having nothing to do, didn’t emerge until the 1840s. Closer, closer. But not quite there.

But in the entry for twiddle was the earlier phrase that twiddle one’s thumbs replaced–to twirl one’s thumbs. Ah! Fun. Enough of a variation to sound old-fashioned to us, but still recognizable. And from . . . 1816.

At first sight, argh. Because that’s two years past my date. But then I remembered that etymonline.com uses the first written appearance (because what else could they possibly go on?) and in those days, a phrase usually appeared in writing several years after it had entered the common spoken vernacular. So I decided that was close enough, and my up-to-the-minute hero could well be using a newfangled, 
popular phrase that his father would be less likely to try out. πŸ˜‰

And so a few key politicians in Washington City are twirling their thumbs. And Thad has decided it’s time to do himself what they refuse

Happy Memorial Day, all! Enjoy some idle time today. Sit on your hands for a
while, guilt-free. Or better still, pick up a good book. πŸ˜€

Word of the Week – Nauseous

Word of the Week – Nauseous

Originally published 10/15/2012

Okay, y’all, I originally posted this seven and a half years ago, and my call for actual evidence to support the claim below netted me nothing but others who were curious, LOL. So I’m trying again–because this claim has since even appeared on Big Bang Theory, touted by Sheldon. So, seriously, people. Someone defend the claim, or I shall be forced to call Sheldon a liar. πŸ˜‚
So here’s the deal. I’ve heard from quite a few sources that we moderns are misusing the word nauseous. That it ought not to mean “to feel sick or queasy” but that it rather means “to cause a feeling of nausea.”
Now, I’ve heard this from sources I trust, but they never quote their sources, and I’m now on a quest to figure out why in the world this is touted as grammatical fact and, more, as a “modern mistake” when every dictionary I look it up in says that nauseous has carried both meanings (“to feel sick” and “to make sick”) since 1600-1610.
One dictionary I found says “careful writers will use nauseated for the feeling of queasiness and reserve nauseous for ‘sickening to contemplate.'” I’m okay with being careful, really I am, but I’m still unsure why grammarians are saying that using its original meaning is “a mistake of the moderns.” It is, in fact, the first definition of the word in the OED.
So. Calling all grammarians! πŸ˜‰ If you learned it this way and could point me to a source (not just an expert like the wonderful Grammar Girl, mind you) that states this as fact, I would be very grateful. I don’t mind changing my ways to be a “careful” writer–but I’m a Johnnie. I don’t ever accept an expert’s opinion without checking out their sources. πŸ˜‰
Word of the Week – Mean

Word of the Week – Mean

Originally posted 8/20/12

Mean is one of those words that I knew well would have been around forever, but I looked it up to see about some of the particular uses. And as usual, found a few surprises. =)
As a verb, mean has meant “intend, have in mind” even back in the days of Old English. No surprise there. It shares a root with similar
words in Dutch and German and various other languages, perhaps from men,
which means “think.” But the unexpected part–the question “Know what I
mean?” is only from 1834! Of course, that’s as a conversational question, a saying. I daresay the words were uttered as a particular question before that. Know what I mean? πŸ˜‰
As an adjective, it began life as “low-quality.” Like “a mean hovel”
that the poor dude lived in. But it also carried a meaning, rather
related, actually, of “shared by all, common, public.” And presumably, if something were shared by all, it wasn’t really high in quality, eh? So
“inferior, second-rate” was also a natural progression for the word and came about in the 14th century.
I knew this definition would be the oldest but, when I looked it up, was more interested in when the most common meaning if mean
(meaning of mean–ha . . . ha . . . ha…) came into play. It acquired the “stingy, nasty” implication in the 1660s, and was then pretty strong. We Americans had to come along to give it a softer side
of “disobliging, pettily offensive,” so that didn’t come about until
1839–again, there’s the surprise!
an interesting note on it too. The inverted sense of “remarkably good,”
(think “wow, he plays a mean piano!”) is from 1900, most likely from a
simple dropping of a negative, like “he is no mean piano player,” (mean here being either “inferior” or its other meaning of “average.”)
Have no mean Monday, all! πŸ˜‰