Etymological Orts from the Interregnum

Perhaps the main reason why "ask mrlucky" vanished from the web for several years was the enormous and annoying mass of word and phrase origin questions which thundered into the foundation. There are many websites which cater to this particular class of interest, and mrlucky got weary of mining the same sources time and time again.

Still, from time to time, mrlucky responded to acolytes with the knowledge they sought. In the interest of completion, here are the various responses:

From murftasurf@aol.com: what's the origin of the "DUTCH" phrases ? (going dutch, in dutch, dutch uncle, etc.)

Dutch as a term of derision dates from the mid 1600's, when the Dutch colonial empire loomed as a real challenge to the British empire. Poet Edmund Waller penned the line, "The Dutch their wine and all their brandy lose, Disarmed of that from which their courage grows." Voila, Dutch courage, et al, was coined.

From anonymous: What is the origin for the phrase "CATCH 22"?

Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" is a magnificent novel, and the originating source for the phrase. It refers to a unresolvable contradiction. From chapter 5, page 55:

"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle."

From jschall@sympatico.ca: Why and when did the name "JOHN HANCOCK" become a synonym for a signature?

Well, it was in 1776, when John Hancock put that big ass signature at the top of the bottom of the Declaration of Independence. He was the first, adds my son, Master Lucky, so he got famous.

From llivoy@cotelligent.com : Why is the abbreviation for the word 'pound' LB.?

Latin. Libra. Means pound.

From garygoyke@home.com: What is the origin of the word/phase "GIRL-FRIDAY"

Probably Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe", where the indispensable native character is named "Friday" by the protagonist. Just a guess, mind you, but I'd put real money on it.

From johan@inet.net: What does G.I. stand for?

Government Iissue. A cynical observation about the status of a soldier.

From lobriz998@hotmail.com: I have been challenged by a friend of mine to find out why we call paper "PAPER". I have been looking up some etymology sites to possibly find the root meaning, and if you could possibly give me a hint on a site that could help me out I would appreicate it.

From the Merriam Webster Dictionary at Encyclopaedia Brittanica.com:

1pa·per
noun
Pronunciation: 'pA-p&r Etymology: Middle English papir, from Middle French papier, from Latin papyrus papyrus, paper, from Greek papyros papyrus Date: 14th century
1 a (1) : a felted sheet of usually vegetable fibers laid down on a fine screen from a water suspension (2) : a similar sheet of other material (as plastic) b : a piece of paper

From navidin@aol.com: What is the origin of the phrase. "DYED IN THE WOOL"

Damned if I know for sure! A passel of folks have put forth notions, however, and here are a few of them, in no particular chronological order:

From Charles Earle Funk's 1948 "A Hog on Ice":

Probably back beyond the days of Jacob--who gave his favorite son, Joseph, "a coat of many colors"--it was known that if the wool were dyed before it was made up into yarn, or while it was still raw wool, the color would be more firmly fixed. The figurative sense--to have one's habits or traits so deeply ingrained as to be inflexible--seems not to have been used in England before the late sixteenth century, for a writer of that period thought he had to explain his meaning when he used it. This was odd, for England was largely dependent upon her textile industry then and earlier for her existence, and any allusion to that industry should have been immediately evident to any Englishman.

At http://www.shu.ac.uk/web-admin/phrases/bulletin_board/messages/2147.html, when this passage of Funk's was posted, a person named Ilir demurred, as such:

I don't beleive (sic) this is correct. Dyed in the wool refers to the color of the wool when it is still on the sheep. I.E. black yarn from a black sheep is died (sic) in the wool. It is not actually dies (sic), it is part of it's nature and is unchangeable. Thus if someone was a dyed in the wool communist it would mean that it was deeply ingrained as it is part of his very character, unchangeable and perhaps even born into his beleifs (sic).

From Bartleby.com, we find:

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.

Dyed in the wool. A hearty good fellow. Cloth which is wool-dyed (not piece-dyed), is true throughout “and will wash.”

From Take Our Word:

Dyed in the wool first appeared in the 16th century as a metaphorical expression. Dying wool was still a common task familiar to a great part of the population. The phrase refers to wool that was dyed before it was spun as opposed to cloth that was dyed piece by piece. The dyed color is deeper and faster than that of cloth that is dyed.

The phrase is chiefly American, though it appears to have originated in England. Additionally, the first occurrences of dyed in the wool applied to people and their characteristics in general, as in this from 1597: "Children as it were in the Wooll of their infancie died with hardnesse may neuer afterwards change colour. " However, it came to apply almost exclusively to one's political affiliation, as in this quote from 1830 America: "In half an hour [he can] come out an original democrat, dyed in the wool."

And finally, from a site on "The Saying Ring", for God's sakes:

DYED IN THE WOOL---Having deeply ingrained habits or traits.---"He's really dyed in the wool."---Wool dyed raw before processing penetrated more thoroughly and lasted longer than wool dyed after processing. Sir Thomas north (1579) Plutarch's Lives "If he had not through institution and education died in wool the manners of children."

That was certainly more than I wanted to know about dyed-in-the-wool, but once you start digging, it's nearly impossible to stop. At least, it is if you're mrlucky. As I am mrlucky, and I'm back, all I can ask is that you folks out there think twice before setting me off on these paths, 'cause word and phrase origins are getting pretty easy to find out there on the wonderful web. I usually start with Google.

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