Precipitate – Before head

Precipitate, it has its obvious meaning – to start something, but some of its forms overlap with rain… ‘precipitating’ for instance can mean to start something, or it can mean it’s raining. Where does it get off? Overlapping with another word so haphazardly? It’s a rarity, most words have either one meaning or more than one,…

Ramshackle – Ransacked

Ramshackle – meaning ‘in a state of severe disrepair.’ It was originally ‘ramshackled’ (1670) and was an alteration of the word ‘ransackled’ – the alteration is likely thanks to the Scottish dialect. ‘Ransackled’ is the past participle of the word ‘ransack’ and it’s easy to see how these words relate. ‘Ransack’ is a word from…

Yank/yankee – Little Dutch person

Yank / Yankee – Actually means something slightly different depending on who’s saying it; outside of the USA it is used to refer to an American, in the US, it refers to someone from the Northern states, and in the Northern states, it is specifically someone from the North-East, it seems no-one is keen to accept…

Cold shoulder – mutton, served to unwanted guests

Cold shoulder – meaning to deliberately ignore somebody. The first written record we have of the phrase is by Sir Walter Scott who wrote: “Ye may mind that the Countess’s dislike did na gang farther at first than just shewing o’ the cauld shouther” Where ‘Cauld shouther’ was local dialect for cold shoulder. The phrase…

Defibrillator: To Un-fibre

Defibrillator – a device for treating life-threatening heart problems. When passing a defibrillator this week I couldn’t help but wonder what it was to be ‘fibrillated’, it’s not a word we use, yet defibrillator runs off the tongue, and the devices have become ubiquitous in modern developed society. ‘Defibrillation’ was first coined in 1940 and…

Frantic and Frenetic – Swollen brain

Being frantic: ‘desperate or wild with excitement, passion, fear, pain, etc’ is nothing new, even the Greeks had it, what’s the etymology of frantic? The word comes from the Middle English (Around 1400 CE) word ‘frentik’, which is also the root of the word ‘frenetic’, meaning ‘fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled…