Etymology
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son of a bitch 

1707 as a direct phrase, but implied much earlier, and Old Norse had bikkju-sonr. Abbreviated form SOB from 1918; form sumbitch attested in writing by 1969.

Abide þou þef malicious!
Biche-sone þou drawest amis
þou schalt abigge it ywis!
["Of Arthour & of Merlin," c. 1330]

"Probably the most common American vulgarity from about the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth" [Rawson].

Our maid-of-all-work in that department [indecency] is son-of-a-bitch, which seems as pale and ineffectual to a Slav or a Latin as fudge does to us. There is simply no lift in it, no shock, no sis-boom-ah. The dumbest policeman in Palermo thinks of a dozen better ones between breakfast and the noon whistle. [H.L. Mencken, "The American Language," 4th ed., 1936, p.317-8]

Elsewhere, complaining of the tepidity of the American vocabulary of profanity, Mencken writes that the toned-down form son-of-a-gun "is so lacking in punch that the Italians among us have borrowed it as a satirical name for an American: la sanemagogna is what they call him, and by it they indicate their contempt for his backwardness in the art that is one of their great glories."

It was in 1934 also that the New York Daily News, with commendable frankness, in reporting a hearing in Washington at which Senator Huey P. Long featured, forsook the old-time dashes and abbreviations and printed the complete epithet "son of a bitch." [Stanley Walker, "City Editor," 1934]
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city (n.)

c. 1200, from Old French cite "town, city" (10c., Modern French cité), from earlier citet, from Latin civitatem (nominative civitas; in Late Latin sometimes citatem) originally "citizenship, condition or rights of a citizen, membership in the community," later "community of citizens, state, commonwealth" (used, for instance of the Gaulish tribes), from civis "townsman," from PIE root *kei- (1) "to lie," also forming words for "bed, couch," and with a secondary sense of "beloved, dear."

Now "a large and important town," but originally in early Middle English a walled town, a capital or cathedral town. Distinction from town is early 14c. OED calls it "Not a native designation, but app[arently] at first a somewhat grandiose title, used instead of the OE. burh"(see borough).

Between Latin and English the sense was transferred from the inhabitants to the place. The Latin word for "city" was urbs, but a resident was civis. Civitas seems to have replaced urbs as Rome (the ultimate urbs) lost its prestige. Loss of Latin -v- is regular in French in some situations (compare alleger from alleviare; neige from nivea; jeune from juvenis. A different sound evolution from the Latin word yielded Italian citta, Catalan ciutat, Spanish ciudad, Portuguese cidade.

London is the city from 1550s. As an adjective, "pertaining to a city, urban," from c. 1300. City hall "chief municipal offices" is first recorded 1670s; to fight city hall is 1913, American English. City slicker "a smart and plausible rogue, of a kind usu. found in cities" [OED] is first recorded 1916 (see slick (adj.)). City limits is from 1825.

The newspaper city-editor, who superintends the collection and publication of local news, is from 1834, American English; hence city desk attested from 1878. Inner city first attested 1968.

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picture (n.)

early 15c., pictur, pictoure, pittour, pectur, "the process or art of drawing or painting," a sense now obsolete; also "a visual or graphic representation of a person, scene, object, etc.," from Latin pictura "painting," from pictus, past participle of pingere "to make pictures, to paint, to embroider," (see paint (v.)).

Picture window is from 1938. Picture post-card is recorded from 1899. Picture-book, "book illustrated with pictures or consisting mostly of pictures," especially one for children, is by 1847. Picture-frame "more or less ornamental border put around a picture to protect it" is from 1660s.

The phrase every picture tells a story is attested from 1900, in advertisements for an illustrated life of Christ. To be in (or out of) the picture in the figurative sense dates to 1900.

The expression a picture is worth a thousand words, attested from 1918, probably originated in the publication trade (the notion that a picture was worth 1,000 words is in printers' publications by 1911). The phrase was used in the form worth a million words by American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane (1864-1936) in an editorial much-read c. 1916 titled "What is a Good Newspaper" in the "New York Evening Journal." In part it read: "After news and humor come good pictures. In this day of hurry we learn through the eye, and one picture may be worth a million words."

The phrase seems to have emerged into general use via the medium of advertising (which scaled down the number and also gave the expression its spurious origin story as "a Japanese proverb" or some such thing, by 1919). Earlier various acts or deeds (and in one case "the arrow") were said to be worth a thousand words.

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yellow ribbon 

The American folk custom of wearing or displaying a yellow ribbon to signify solidarity with loved ones or fellow citizens at war originated during the U.S. embassy hostage crisis in Iran in 1979. It does not have a connection to the American Civil War, beyond the use of the old British folk song "Round Her Neck She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" in the John Wayne movie of the same name, with a Civil War setting, released in 1949.

The story of a ribbon tied to a tree as a signal to a convict returning home that his loved ones have forgiven him is attested from 1959, but the ribbon in that case was white.

The ribbon color seems to have changed to yellow first in a version retold by newspaper columnist Pete Hamill in 1971. The story was dramatized in June 1972 on ABC-TV (James Earl Jones played the ex-con). Later that year, Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown copyrighted the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," which became a pop hit in early 1973 and sparked a lawsuit by Hamill, later dropped.

In 1975, the wife of a Watergate conspirator put out yellow ribbons when her husband was released from jail, and news coverage of that was noted and remembered by Penne Laingen, whose husband was U.S. ambassador to Iran in 1979 and one of the Iran hostages taken in the embassy on Nov. 4. Her yellow ribbon in his honor was written up in the Dec. 10, 1979, Washington Post.

When the hostage families organized as the Family Liaison Action Group (FLAG), they took the yellow ribbon as their symbol. The ribbons revived in the 1991 Gulf War and again during the 2000s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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abstract (adj.)
Origin and meaning of abstract

late 14c., originally in grammar (in reference to nouns that do not name concrete things), from Latin abstractus "drawn away," past participle of abstrahere "to drag away, detach, pull away, divert," also used figuratively; from assimilated form of ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + trahere "to draw" (from PIE root *tragh- "to draw, drag, move;" see tract (n.1)).

The meaning in philosophy, "withdrawn or separated from material objects or practical matters" (opposed to concrete) is from mid-15c. That of "difficult to understand, abstruse" is from c. 1400.

In the fine arts, "characterized by lack of representational qualities" by 1914; it had been a term at least since 1847 for music without accompanying lyrics. Abstract expressionism as an American-based uninhibited approach to art exemplified by Jackson Pollock is from 1952, but the term itself had been used in the 1920s of Kandinsky and others.

Oswald Herzog, in an article on "Der Abstrakte Expressionismus" (Sturm, heft 50, 1919) gives us a statement which with equal felicity may be applied to the artistic attitude of the Dadaists. "Abstract Expressionism is perfect Expressionism," he writes. "It is pure creation. It casts spiritual processes into a corporeal mould. It does not borrow objects from the real world; it creates its own objects .... The abstract reveals the will of the artist; it becomes expression. ..." [William A. Drake, "The Life and Deeds of Dada," 1922]
Then, that art we have called "abstract" for want of any possible descriptive term, with which we have been patient, and, even, appreciative, getting high stimulation by the new Guggenheim "non-objective" Art Museum, is reflected in our examples of "surrealism," "dadaism," and what-not, to assert our acquaintance in every art, fine or other. [Report of the Art Reference Department of Pratt Institute Free Library for year ending June 30, 1937]
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platinum (n.)

metallic element, 1812, Modern Latin, altered from earlier platina, from Spanish platina "platinum," diminutive of plata "silver," from Old French plate or Old Provençal plata "sheet of metal" (see plate (n.)). Related: Platiniferous.

The metal looks like silver, and the Spaniards at first thought it an inferior sort of silver, hence the name platina. It was first obtained from Spanish colonies in Mexico and Colombia, brought to Europe in 1735, and identified as an element 1741. Taken into English as platina (1750), it took its modern form (with element ending -ium) in 1812, at the time the names of elements were being regularized.

As a grayish-white color (similar to that of the metal) it is attested by 1923; especially as a shade of blond hair, it is attested by 1927 (in platinum blonde "woman with platinum-blonde hair;" Jean Harlow, famously associated with the label, starred in a popular movie of that name in 1931).

There is a blonde type to me more irresistibly lovely than all the rest of the women who come under the "preferred" classification. She is the platinum blonde. ... There are thousands of blondes with gold in their hair, and as many with red, and quite as many again with the yellow of corn, some real and sometimes corned with the aid of a well known bleaching ingredient—but the platinum blonde maintains her supremacy by her rarity. [Antoinette Donnelly, beauty advice column in New York "Daily News," Jan. 25, 1927]

 As a designation for a recording that has sold at least one million copies, platinum is attested from 1960 ("The Battle of New Orleans"); in the late '50s it had been used to commemorate 3 million sales of a record (Pat Boone "Love Letters in the Sand"), and, from 1954, 25 million in total record sales (Jo Stafford, Gene Autry). 

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record (n.)

c. 1300, "testimony committed to writing, fact or condition of having been recorded," from Old French record "memory; statement, report," from recorder "to record" (see record (v.)). Also in part from Medieval Latin noun recordum, recorda. Related: Records.

The meaning "a written account of some fact, event, or proceeding for the purpose of preserving the memory of it" is from late 14c., as is the sense of "official document of a government department or municipal office." Hence the meaning "fact or condition of being preserved as knowledge, especially by being put into writing" (late 14c.).

The meaning "disk on which sounds or images have been recorded" is attested from 1878, originally also of Edison's wax cylinders, later extended somewhat to other forms of sound storage. Record-player is attested from 1919; record-album " audio recordings issued as a collection" is by 1936. Earlier it was "an album in which to store Edison cylinders." "The man who owns Blue Amberol Records only, ought to have albums in which to keep them instead of scattering them around or keeping them in old boxes, etc., under the piano or the sofa." [advertisement, Edison Phonograph Monthly, July 1913]. Record-store is attested by 1933; record-shop from 1929.

The meaning "best or highest official achievement in a sport, activity, etc." is by 1883; the verb to go with it might be break (1924) or beat (1884). The sense of "aggregate of known facts in a person's life" is by 1856, American English.

The journalist's phrase on the record is attested from 1900; adverbial phrase off the record "confidentially" is attested from 1906. For the record "for the sake of having the facts known" is by 1930 in congressional testimony. To keep (or set) the record straight is by 1949. The legal phrase matter of record was in Middle English as "matter that has been formally recorded or documented" and "legal issue that can be resolved by existing record."

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sabotage (n.)

1907 (from 1903 as a French word in English), "malicious damaging or destruction of an employer's property by workmen," from French sabotage, from saboter "to sabotage, bungle," literally "walk noisily," from sabot "wooden shoe" (see sabaton).

In English, "malicious mischief" would appear to be the nearest explicit definition of "sabotage," which is so much more expressive as to be likely of adoption into all languages spoken by nations suffering from this new force in industry and morals. Sabotage has a flavor which is unmistakable even to persons knowing little slang and no French .... [Century Magazine, November 1910] 

In French, and at first in English, the sense of "deliberately and maliciously destroying property" was in reference to labor disputes, but the oft-repeated story (as old as the record of the word in English) that the modern meaning derives from strikers' supposed tactic of throwing shoes into machinery is not supported by the etymology. Likely it was not meant as a literal image; the word was used in French in a variety of "bungling" senses, such as "to play a piece of music badly."

This, too, was the explanation given in some early usages:

SABOTAGE [chapter heading] The title we have prefixed seems to mean "scamping work." It is a device which, we are told, has been adopted by certain French workpeople as a substitute for striking. The workman, in other words, purposes to remain on and to do his work badly, so as to annoy his employer's customers and cause loss to his employer. [The Liberty Review, January 1907]
You may believe that sabotage is murder, and so forth, but it is not so at all. Sabotage means giving back to the bosses what they give to us. Sabotage consists in going slow with the process of production when the bosses go slow with the same process in regard to wages. [Arturo M. Giovannitti, quoted in report of the Sagamore Sociological Conference, June 1907]

The military extension to damage inflicted (especially clandestinely) to disrupt an enemy is from World War I.

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vampire (n.)

spectral being in a human body who maintains semblance of life by leaving the grave at night to suck the warm blood of the living as they sleep, 1732, vampyre, from French vampire (18c.) or German Vampir (1732, like the English word first in an account of Hungarian vampires), from Hungarian vampir, from Old Church Slavonic opiri (source also of Serbian vampir, Bulgarian vapir, Ukrainian uper), said by Slavic linguist Franc Miklošič to be ultimtely from Kazan Tatar ubyr "witch," but Max Vasmer, an expert in this linguistic area, finds that phonetically doubtful.

An Eastern European creature popularized in English by late 19c. gothic novels, however there are scattered English accounts of night-walking, blood-gorged, plague-spreading undead corpses from as far back as 1196. Figurative sense of "person who preys on others" is from 1741. Applied 1774 by French biologist Buffon to a species of South American blood-sucking bat. Related: Vampiric.

MR. D'Anvers tells of a Conversation he had about a certain Prodigy, mention'd in the News Papers of March last, viz. that in the Village of Medreyga in Hungary, certain dead Bodies (call'd there Vampyres) had kill'd several Persons by sucking out all their Blood : That Arnold Paul, an Heyduke, having kill'd four Persons after he was dead, his Body was taken up 40 Days after, which bled at the Nose, Mouth and Ears : That, according to Custom, they drove a Stake thro' his Heart, at which he gave horrid Groan, and lost a great deal of Blood. And that all such as have been tormented or kill'd by Vampyres, become Vampyres when they are dead. [London Journal, May 20, 1732, quoted in Weekly Essays, May 1732]

The spread of the story about this time is perhaps traceable to a pamphlet published in 1732, the title page of which reads: Dissertationem De Hominibus Post Mortem Sanguisugis, Vulgo Sic Dictis Vampyren, Auctoritate Inclyti Philosophorum Ordinis, Publico Eruditorum Examini Die XXX. Aug. An. MDCCXXXII. Submittent M. Io. Christophorus Pohlius, Lignicens. Silesius Et Io. Gottlob Hertelius, Philos. Et Med. Stud. 

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