Me Like Words
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Back with a quicky

Canary Islands
A group of mountainous islands in the Atlantic off the northwest coast of Africa forming Spanish provinces

Ok, so not the most exciting post of all time, but after reading the comments I can see everyone is just aching for a little etymology, so here goes. The Canary Islands. The Canary bird. It makes sense that the islands were named after the little birds that lived there, right? Wrong. In fact it was the other way around. The birds were named after the islands. But then how did this little group of islands come to be called the Canaries? Dogs, actually.

The Latin word for dog was Canis - suddenly canine makes sense - and when explores first landed on the islands they found them overrun with wild dogs. The dubbed the place The Island of the Dogs, which evolved into The Canaries. The little birds that lived there also took on the name and that about brings us to today. Oh, and canaries were particularly adept at dying in coal mines, warning the miners that poisonous gasses were wafting about and it would be a good time to get the hell out of there.

Are you happy now? Have you got your fix?
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Been very lazy lately

And I'm sorry for not updating this past week. Next week we should be back to our not-quite-daily posts as my knee gets better. Thanks to Oliver and B.E.E. for keeping the comments alive and kicking.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Polka Dots
Design consisting of a pattern of regularly spaced circular spots

Things were a lot different back in 1830. For one, blogging was in its infancy and it was just called 'keeping a journal' back then. Another thing that was different was people's taste in music. If you don't believe me then how could you explain the phenomenon that was Polka music. It started in Germany but quickly took over the entire western world as the preferred music of the masses. See? Things were different back then.

But not so different. Just like today, when a new trend in popular culture explodes, companies, entrepreneurs and taste-makers swarm to capitalize and cash in. So when Polka had the whole world thumping to the sweet sweet beats of the tuba, American clothing manufacturers were fighting it out to see who could grab the lucrative Polka market.

Some unknown genius developed a fabric and, thinking he should ally himself with the trend, named it Polka Dot. Thanks to its association with the music the fabric became a hit and children's' clothing has been gay ever since. It had nothing to do with the music other than some clever marketing and a catchy name. Polka, by the way, is simply Polish for Polish Woman, just like Polak means Polish Man or, more specifically, Guy Who Is Comically Inept At Grasping And Executing Simple Concepts, Often With Hilarious Results.

Being in a band is great, if only for the massive sex appeal that comes with the territory.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Indication indicates either a safe or secure condition.

Perhaps no term in the English language has as many supposed origins as OK. Wikipedia lists 11 separate possible explanations on how we got our favorite little term for saying 's'all good.' For the sake of time - and the fact that it's 7:30 in the morning and I don't feel like typing all that much - I'll give you a brief rundown of them all and leave it up to you to decide which etymology you agree with.
There you have it, a bunch of theories about where we got our little term OK. But no matter which one is the true source one fact about OK remains: it is the most recognized and understood term on the planet...right before McDonalds, Disney World and Bush.
Friday, August 11, 2006
A slang term for Italian Americans.

It's racial slur day here at Me Like Words and we're starting off with those damn Eye-ties. Ginny is one of my favorite racial slurs only because it seems so quaint these days; like hating Hungarians or something. Anyways, there is a split when it come to the proper spelling of this term so I will give you the background of both.

First up is ginny. In the 19th century Italians began to pour into America, just like every other European ethnic group. There were jobs (kind of), homes (sort of) and freedom (eh?). They came in droves and the Italians decided to set up shop in New York City. To this day the view of the classic New Yorker is a fat Italian guy from Brooklyn in pleated chinos and a wife beater, chomping on a cigar, bitching about Starbucks. These guys were called Ginnys and even their shirts were christened Ginny-T's. So how did we get ginny? Ginny is simply an acronym for "Going into New York, as was the custom of the day.

The second theory regarding this term revolves around a different spelling, Guinea. Now Guinea proper is a region in Africa, not a place in Italy so what does that have anything to do with Italians? It appears that term Guinea is a shortened version of a far more offensive term, Guinea Negro which makes reference to the fact that Italians have darker skin than the rest of Europe and the belief that they were once dominated by the Moors (Northern African Muslims), although the moors only seem to have made quick attacks. Dominated by barbarians: yes. Moors: no.

So there you have it. Anyway you slice it Ginny/Guinea is a hilarious slur to use on all of our Italian American friends. Hey look, some have even started adopting it as their own!

Eyyyyyy! Let's perpetuate some stereotypes, huh?!
Thursday, August 10, 2006
An informal term for a youth or man; "a nice guy"

My favorite way to address someone whose name I do not know has an interesting and violent history. But long before we were using guy as a way to hide our forgetfulness, we were using it for the exact opposite reason, as a proper name. And the most famous Guy in history - besides Guy Ritchie, of course - gave us our beloved term for a dude, a bro, a man or pal.

Guy Fawkes was not a happy man. A converted Catholic, he was pretty upset when King James I decided that all Catholics were persona non grata in 1605 and passed some reforms saying as much. Guy was so upset he devised a plan to blow up Parliament on it's opening day while James would have been inside. Luckily, someone tipped off the authorities and Guy was nabbed at the scene of the crime, having already loaded quite a bit of gunpowder into the Parliament basement. After some friendly torture Guy gave up his co-conspirators and the whole group had the pleasure of being hanged. But it doesn't end there.

Guy's death was declared a national holiday and is celebrated every year in England. Aside from getting very, very drunk (trust me, I've seen it), the Brits also like to burn Guy in effigy. These flaming figures were dubbed Guys and the whole kingdom had a real blast lighting them up every year. Since the Guys were always dressed in crappy clothing, obviously, the term guy started to be used more informally as an insulting term for a poor person. It is thought that Mark Twain was the first to introduce guy to the vernacular with it's current neutral meaning; ya know, just a dude, a guy. Oh, and V in V for Vendetta is supposed to be Guy Fawkes, I think.

So there you have it, 400 plus years of linguistic evolution through some of the most important events and people in history all to arrive at our glorious word, guy.

Narc-ed out!
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Ice-cream sundae: ice cream served with a topping

In this country we'll be damned if we have to spell words correctly. There's drive-thru, niteclub, donut and probably half the words in this blog (I have a bit of a spelling/grammar problem). Sundae is no exception. However delicious a 5-scoop behemoth topped with peanut butter sauce, hot fudge, whipped cream and Reeses Pieces is, it doesn’t change the fact that sundae isn't quite spelled the way one would think.

I hate to be the bearer of boring news but the word sundae doesn't have it's root in some extremely interesting story, but rather a guy with a good idea and healthy fear of God. George Giffy owned an ice cream parlor in Wisconsin back in the 1890s and business was booming. In that white bread world his most popular treat was, obviously, a dish of plain vanilla. But when a customer notified him that pouring on a little chocolate sauce enhanced the taste, Giffy struck gold. Soon the whole town had jungle fever and wanted a little taste of the dark with their white. The problem was he needed to charge 5 cents more for this new treat.

In steps God. Giffy decided to trick his customers by only selling the concoction on Sundays to the after-Church crowd. So why would he name the dish a sundae instead of a >i>sunday. Simple, he didn't want to offend anyone by being blasphemous. Thus was born the greatest creation in the annals of history, the sundae.

A sundae or, as I like to call them, "frozen orgasms."
Friday, August 04, 2006
Putting an accused person to death, usually by hanging without a lawful trial.

While vigilante justice is nothing new - after all, it was the only kind before courts, police and superheroes were invented - the term Lynching is fairly recent. Most people associate lynching with the crimes carried out against black people in the 20's and 30's but it used to apply to much broader, and a little less horrible, practice.

It all started around 1780 when citizens of Pittsylvania County, Virginia got sick of all the criminals running around. They were far away from the courts and any semblance of civil authority. In steps Captain William Lynch who drafts a series of laws now known as Lynch Law. The gist: if we think you're a robber, we're going to inflict justice ourselves. Simple as that.

Interestingly, Ol' Willy wasn't a fan of the noose and instead preferred the punishment for caught criminals to be 39 lashings. Only later did hanging become part of the greater lynching family. Personally, I'd prefer to be tried by a jury of my peers but I guess that's just me...
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Run Amok
Wildly; without self-control; in a murderous frenzy.

Is it just me, or is opium just about the greatest thing since the written word? I mean, c'mon, who doesn't love opium, right? People love the ummms so much there was even a war about a century or two ago. And what a coincidence, our term today - run amok - has something to do with opium!

It's the 1500's and Portuguese traders are raping there way across the world. During one stop in Malaysia the trader/rapers saw some local Malaysians running through the streets wildly, hitting people and screaming. "Sacre bleu!" screamed the Portuguese traders. The Euros described their behavior using the Malay word, amog, which translates to "engaging furiously in battle." Apparently when Malaysians fought they would work themselves into a frenzy beforehand - with a little help from the ol' hashish - and then charge wildly into the fray. Fighting stoned is an excellent idea, especially if you like giggling and bleeding.

Anyways, what the Portuguese sailors didn't realize about the group of unruly Malaysians was that they had all smoked a bad batch of opium. That was what was causing them to go tearing through the streets like madmen. The Portuguese got home, told the tale and, eventually, amog became amok. God bless you, lazy English tongue.
Look at these fucking wild lunatics!
I (me) like words. And even more than liking words I like to know where they come from and how they ended up in my mouth. It's called 'Etymology,' and I hope you like words as much as me do. If you have a word or phrase you've been pondering send it to me at with 'Me Like Words' as the subject.

Location: New York City, New York, United States
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