Etymology
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proof (n.)

c. 1200, preove "evidence and argumentation to establish the fact of (something) beyond reasonable doubt," from Anglo-French prove, preove, Old French proeve, prueve "proof, test, experience" (13c., Modern French preuve), from Late Latin proba "a proof," a back-formation from Latin probare "to prove" (see prove). "The devocalization of v to f ensued upon the loss of final e; cf. the relation of v and f in believe, belief, relieve, relief, behove, behoof, etc." [OED].

The meaning "act of proving" is early 14c. The meaning "act of testing or making trial of anything" is from late 14c., from influence of prove. Meaning "standard of strength of distilled liquor" is from 1705, on the notion of "having been tested as to degree of strength." The use in photography is from 1855. The typographical sense of "trial impression to test type" is from c. 1600. The numismatic sense of "coin struck to test a die" is from 1762; now mostly in reference to coins struck from highly polished dies, mainly for collectors.

The adjectival sense "impenetrable, able to resist" (as in proof against) is recorded from 1590s, from the noun in expressions such as proof of (mid-15c.), hence extended senses involving "of tested power against" in compounds such as fireproof (1630s), rust-proof (1690s), waterproof (1725), fool-proof (1902), etc. Shakespeare has shame-proof. Expression the proof is in the pudding (1915) is a curious perversion of earlier proof of the pudding shall be in the eating (1708), with proof in the sense "quality of proving good or turning out well" (17c.).

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catfish (v.)

"assume a fake persona on social media for the purpose of deceiving or attracting another person," by 2013, from the successful 2010 film "Catfish," concerning such an experience, and especially the subsequent TV show of the same name which aired from 2012 on MTV.

The film takes its title from an anecdote of fishermen putting a catfish in the tank with a shipment of live cod to keep the cod active in transit and tastier at the table. The anecdote, though attractive to sermonizers, seems to have no basis in reality. It sometimes is traced to a 1988 sermon by evangelical pastor Charles R. Swindoll, but it has been used in sermons since the 1920s and the anecdote seems to have appeared first in print in two popular publications of 1913: Henry W. Nevinson's "The Catfish," in "Essays in Rebellion," and Charles Marriott's novel "The Catfish," in which it is a symbol for a woman who keeps a man active.

The article went on to speak of the world's catfish—anything or anybody that introduced into life the 'queer, unpleasant, disturbing touch of the kingdom of Heaven.' 'Well,' thought George, amusedly, 'Mary was his Catfish. She kept his soul alive. ...' " ["The Catfish"]

Publisher's Weekly (June 7, 1913) write in its review of the novel that "The story deals with the influence which one woman may exert over one man when man and woman meet in their quickest sympathy of mind and heart and instinct." Related: Catfishing; catfished.

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shoddy (adj.)

1862, "having a delusive appearance of high quality," a Northern word from the American Civil War in reference to the quality of government supplies for the armies, from earlier noun meaning "rag-wool, kind of cloth made of woolen waste and old rags" (1832), "presumably orig. a factory word" [Century Dictionary], which is perhaps a Yorkshire provincial word, itself of uncertain origin; according to Watkins, it could be from the same Old English source as shed (v.).

Originally the material was used for padding. English manufacturers in 19c. began making coarse wearing clothes from it. When new it looked like broad-cloth but the gloss quickly wore off, giving the stuff a reputation as a commercial cheat.

The 1860 U.S. census of manufactures notes import of more than 6 million pounds of it, which was "much used in the manufacture of army and navy cloths and blankets in the United States" according to an 1865 government report. The citizen-soldier's experience with it in the war, and the fortunes made on it by contractors, thrust the word into sudden prominence.

The Days of Shoddy, as the reader will readily anticipate, are the opening months of the present war, at which time the opprobrious name first came into general use as a designation for swindling and humbug of every character; and nothing more need be said to indicate the scope of this novel. [Henry Morford, "The Days of Shoddy: A Novel of the Great Rebellion in 1861," Philadelphia, 1863]

Related: Shoddily; shoddiness.

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first (adj., adv.)

Old English fyrst "foremost, going before all others; chief, principal," also (though rarely) as an adverb, "at first, originally," superlative of fore; from Proto-Germanic *furista- "foremost" (source also of Old Saxon fuirst "first," Old High German furist, Old Norse fyrstr, Danish første, Old Frisian ferist, Middle Dutch vorste "prince," Dutch vorst "first," German Fürst "prince"), from PIE *pre-isto-, superlative of *pre-, from root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of, before, first, chief."

The usual Old English superlative word was not fyrst, but forma, which shows more clearly the connection to fore. Forma became Middle English firme "first, earliest," but this has not survived.

First aid is that given at the scene, pending the arrival of a doctor. First lady as an informal title for the wife of a U.S. president was in use by 1908, short for First lady of the land (by 1863 with reference to the president's wife); the earlier title was simply Lady (1841). First name is attested from mid-13c. First base "a start" in any sense (1938) is a figurative use from baseball.

First fruits is from late 14c. as "earliest productions of the soil;" 1590s as "first results" of any activity or endeavor. First love is from 1741 as "one's first experience of romantic love;" 1971 as "one's favorite occupation or pastime." First floor is from 1660s as "story built on or just above the ground" (now U.S.); 1865 as "story built next above the ground."

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past (n.)

c. 1500, "times gone by, the time that has preceded the present," from past (adj.). Meaning "a past life, career, or history" is attested by 1836.

The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet,
The only sweet thing that is not also fleet.
[Edward Thomas, from "Early one morning"]
AMERICA does not repel the past, or what it has produced under its forms or amid other politics or the idea of castes or the old religions .... accepts the lesson with calmness ... is not so impatient as has been supposed that the slough still sticks to opinions and manners and literature while the life which served its requirements has passed into the new life of the new forms ... perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from the eating and sleeping rooms of the house ... perceives that it waits a little while in the door ... that it was fittest for its days ... that its action has descended to the stalwart and wellshaped heir who approaches ... and that he shall be fittest for his days. [Whitman, opening of the preface to "Leaves of Grass," 1855]
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. [George Santayana, "The Life of Reason," 1905]
[T]he past cannot be presented; we cannot know what we are not. [Thoreau]
The past is never dead. It's not even past. [Faulkner, "Requiem for a Nun," 1950]
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school (n.1)
Origin and meaning of school

[place of instruction] Middle English scole, from Old English scol, "institution for instruction," from Latin schola "meeting place for teachers and students, place of instruction;" also "learned conversation, debate; lecture; disciples of a teacher, body of followers, sect," also in the older Greek sense of "intermission of work, leisure for learning."

This is from Greek skholē "spare time, leisure, rest, ease; idleness; that in which leisure is employed; learned discussion;" also "a place for lectures, school;" originally "a holding back, a keeping clear," from skhein "to get" (from PIE root *segh- "to hold") + -olē by analogy with bolē "a throw," stolē "outfit," etc.

The basic sense of the Greek word is "leisure," which passed to "otiose discussion" (in Athens or Rome, the favorite or proper use of free time), then it came to be used for the place for such discussion.

The Latin word was widely borrowed (in addition to Old French escole, French école, Spanish escuela, Italian scuola; Old High German scuola, German Schule, Swedish skola, Gaelic sgiol, Welsh ysgol, Russian shkola).

The meaning "students attending a school" in English is attested from c. 1300; the sense of "school building" is by 1590s. Sense of "people united by a general similarity of principles and methods" is from 1610s; hence school of thought (by 1848). As an adjective by mid-18c., "pertaining to or relating to a school or to education."

School of hard knocks "rough experience in life" is by 1870; to tell tales out of school "betray damaging secrets" is from 1540s. School-bus is from 1908. School days is from 1590s. School board "local committee of education" is by 1836; school district "division of a town or city for the management of schools" is by 1809.

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elephant (n.)

c. 1300, olyfaunt, from Old French olifant (12c., Modern French éléphant), from Latin elephantus, from Greek elephas (genitive elephantos) "elephant; ivory," probably from a non-Indo-European language, likely via Phoenician (compare Hamitic elu "elephant," source of the word for it in many Semitic languages, or possibly from Sanskrit ibhah "elephant").

Re-spelled after 1550 on Latin model. Cognate with the common term for the animal in Romanic and Germanic; Slavic words (for example Polish slon', Russian slonu) are from a different word. Old English had it as elpend, and compare elpendban, elpentoð "ivory," but a confusion of exotic animals led to olfend "camel."

Herodotus mentions the (African) elephant, which in ancient times and until 7c. C.E. was found north of the Sahara as well. Frazer (notes to Pausanias's "Description of Greece," 1898) writes that "Ptolemy Philadelphius, king of Egypt (283-247 B.C.), was first to tame the African elephant and use it in war; his elephants were brought from Nubia," and the Carthaginians probably borrowed the idea from him; "for in the Carthaginian army which defeated Regulus in 255 B.C. there were about 100 elephants .... It was easy for the Carthaginians to procure elephants, since in antiquity the animal was found native in the regions of North Africa now known as Tripoli and Morocco (Pliny, N.H. viii.32)."

As an emblem of the Republican Party in U.S. politics, 1860. To see the elephant "be acquainted with life, gain knowledge by experience" is an American English colloquialism from 1835. The elephant joke was popular 1960s-70s.

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bias (n.)

1520s, "oblique or diagonal line," from French biais "a slant, a slope, an oblique," also figuratively, "an expedient, means" (13c., originally in Old French a past-participle adjective, "sideways, askance, against the grain"), a word of unknown origin. Probably it came to French from Old Provençal biais, which has cognates in Old Catalan and Sardinian, and is possibly via Vulgar Latin *(e)bigassius from Greek epikarsios "athwart, crosswise, at an angle," from epi "upon" (see epi-) + karsios "oblique" (from PIE *krs-yo-, suffixed form of root *sker- (1) "to cut").

In the old game of bowls, it was a technical term used in reference to balls made with a greater weight on one side, causing them to curve obliquely (1560s); hence the figurative use "a one-sided tendency of the mind" (1570s), and, at first especially in law, "undue propensity or prejudice."

The bias of education, the bias of class-relationships, the bias of nationality, the political bias, the theological bias—these, added to the constitutional sympathies and antipathies, have much more influence in determining beliefs on social questions than has the small amount of evidence collected. [Herbert Spencer, "The Study of Sociology," 1873]
For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections colour and infect the understanding. [Francis Bacon, "Novum Organum," 1620]
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mall (n.)

1737, "shaded walk serving as a promenade," generalized from The Mall, name of a broad, tree-lined promenade in St. James's Park, London (so called from 1670s, earlier Maill, 1640s), which was so called because it formerly was an open alley that was used to play pall-mall.

This was a once-popular game played with a wooden ball in a kind of smooth alley boarded in at each side, in which the ball was struck with a mallet to send it through an iron arch placed at the end of the alley. The game's name is from French pallemaille, from Italian pallamaglio, from palla "ball" (see balloon (n.)) + maglio "mallet" (from Latin malleus "a hammer, mallet," from PIE root *mele- "to crush, grind"). Modern sense of "enclosed shopping gallery" is from 1962 (from 1951 in reference to city streets set aside for pedestrians only). Mall rat "one who frequents a mall" is from 1985 (see rat (n.)).

The short history of malls goes like this: In 1954, Victor Gruen's Northland Center, often credited as the first modern shopping mall (though earlier examples existed), opens in Southfield, Michigan. The suburban location is fitting because the rise of the automobile, helped along by the Federal-Aid Highway Act, led to the widespread creation of large shopping centers away from urban centers. This, among other factors, nearly killed downtowns, and malls reigned supreme for some 40 years. By the 1990s, however, a new urbanism movement revived the urban shopping experience and eroded the dominance of malls. Next, the rise of big box stores and online shopping sounded the death knell for mall culture. [Steven Kurutz, "An Ode to Shopping Malls," New York Times, July 26, 2017]
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