Have you ever stopped to think about the word ‘book’? It’s one of those words that has an interesting spread of meaning. We read a book. We book tickets. Police book you. You can have the book thrown at you. You can be bookish.
I’ve always liked the idea of the police booking people because it makes me picture people being pressed between the pages of a giant book! But that’s just me.
The word for book in many languages comes from words for bark or other plant matter written on, which makes perfect sense. What’s more interesting is that the other meanings in English (except bookish) related to the act of recording/listing things in a book, whether that is a patron’s seat number or the charges against you.
I’m still picturing human pressed flowers though.
The phrase “my eye” isn’t used much in english speaking countries anymore, but you do come across it in older books and movies and I’ve always liked it as a way to show sarcasm/disbelief (e.g. “Him a gentleman? My eye!”) What I didn’t know was that this shows up in both French and Japanese as gestures with a similar use.
In Japan it’s called Akanbe and pulling down the lower eyelid to show the red is usually combined with sticking out your tongue. In France you might say “my eye” – mon œil – while pulling down the lower lid. Both are sarcastic and, I think, more a thing younger people do.
I’d always assumed “my eye” was like “I’ll eat my hat” i.e. something you’d sacrifice if proven wrong and I thought it must relate to something like Odin’s story in Norse mythology, but maybe it’s just that eyes look kind of gross when you see the pink bits?
I love the phrase ‘you look like death warmed up’ but the other day I got to wondering where it came from. After all it is a bit of a weird thing to say and kind of expects that you know what a dead person looks like.
Turns out that makes a lot of sense, because it was soldier’s slang (found in a 1939 slang dictionary). With one world war behind them and another underway, I’m sure they knew very well what death looked like!
I wish I could remember where I found this one… *chuckle*
I’ve realised that I should be grateful for my day-to-day exposure to the corporate world, because it is such a fertile ground for language abuse. Seriously. My favourite thing is walking around office buildings reading the various signs that tell you what to do and not to do. Trust me, they almost invariably sport such terrible grammar, malapropisms and ambiguity that you can’t tear your eyes away.
And then there is software. Ever since software designers realised they needed to improve the usability of their products and got chatty in their communications, it has been a buffet of misuse. Though I will cut the software people some slack in that many of them are operating in multiple languages.
So, to my favourite of the week… This was the conversational way that an online service introduced their help functionality: Sometimes we all need help.
Another gigglefest from xkcd!!
“Death pledge” sounds so serious doesn’t it? It’s actually just what “mortgage” means. So if you have a home loan, you do have a death pledge!
Of course this isn’t because the money-lender traditionally killed you if you defaulted on your repayments, but because “death” was being used in the sense of the end of something. In this case either full repayment or foreclosure.
In other words, you were pledging that you’d either pay back the loan or give the money-lender the house. You were pledging your house to secure the loan, which is how mortgages still work today.
Every time I see an ad for home loans, I replace “home loan” and “mortgage” with “death pledge”, because how can sentences like “competitive death pledge rates” not be amusing?