Etymology
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poke (v.)

"to push or thrust against, to prod," especially with something long or pointed, c. 1300, puken, poken "to poke, nudge," a word of obscure origin, perhaps from or related to Middle Dutch poken "to poke" (Dutch beuken), or Middle Low German poken "to stick with a knife" (compare German pochen "to knock, rap"), implying a Proto-Germanic root *puk-, perhaps imitative. Related: Poked; poking.

To poke around "search" is from 1809; to poke along "advance lazily; walk at a leisurely pace" is from 1833. The sense evolution there might be via the notion of "grope, search, feel, or push one's way in or as in the dark;" poke meaning "work in a desultory, ineffective way" is attested from 1796, and poking "pottering" is by 1769. To poke fun "tease" is attested by 1811.

When I told her I had drawn the ten thousand dollar prize in the lottery, she said I wanted to poke fun into her, which you see was no such thing. [Boston Review, February 1811, quoting from a humorous pamphlet on the U.S. Bank by "Abimelech Coody, Esq., ladies' shoemaker"]
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doughface (n.)

contemptuous nickname in U.S. politics for Northern Democrats who worked in the interest of the South before the Civil War, by 1833. It was taken to mean "man who allows himself to be molded," but that probably was not the original image. The source is an 1820 speech by John Randolph of Roanoke, in the wake of the Missouri Compromise.

Randolph, mocking the northerners intimidated by the South, referred to a children's game in which the players daubed their faces with dough and then looked in a mirror and scared themselves. [Daniel Walker Howe, "What Hath God Wrought," 2007]

Randolph had used the term dough-face in the sense "mask of dough" in Congressional debates as far back as February 1809 ("... it is something like dressing ourselves up in a dough-face and winding-sheet to frighten others ....").

However, the expression has been explained as referring to "the pale doughy faces of his frightened opponents" [Craigie], to a "person who is pliable and, as it were, made of dough" [Century Dictionary], or even "to liken them in timidity to female deer," which is frightened at her own shadow [The Port Folio, 1820]. Dough-faced in the sense "cowardly" is attested in a text from 1773, so there might be a convergence of senses.

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cut (n.)

mid-15c., "a certain length" of something; 1520s, "gash, incision, opening made by an edged instrument," from cut (v.).

Meaning "piece cut off" (especially of meat) is from 1590s. Figurative sense of "a wounding sarcasm" is from 1560s. Meaning "an excision or omission of a part" is from c. 1600. Sense of "a reduction" is by 1881. Meaning "manner in which a thing is cut" is from 1570s, hence "fashion, style, make" (1580s).

Dialectal or local sense of "a creek or inlet" is from 1620s. Meaning "channel or trench made by cutting or digging" is from 1730. Meaning "block or stamp on which a picture is engraved" is from 1640s. Sense of "act of cutting a deck of cards" is from 1590s. Cinematic sense of "a quick transition from one shot to the next" is by 1933. Meaning "share" (of profit, loot, etc.) is by 1918.

Meaning "phonograph recording" is by 1949; the verb in the sense "make a recording" is by 1937, from the literal sense in reference to the mechanical process of making sound recordings.

Instead of a cutting tool actually operated by the sound vibrations from the voices or instruments of performing artists, the panatrope records are cut by a tool that is operated electrically. ["The New Electric Phonograph," in Popular Science, February 1926]. 

A cut above "a degree better than" is from 1818. Cold-cuts "cooked meats sliced and served cold" (1945) translates German kalter Aufschnitt.

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yegg (n.)

also yegg-man, 1901, a word popular in the first decade of the 20th century and meaning vaguely "hobo burglar; safe-breaker; criminal beggar."

The great majority [of the Chicago criminal population] are what certain detectives call "Yegg-men," which is a term, by the way, that the detectives would do well to define. As far as I can discover it means tramp-thieves, but the average tramp seldom uses the word. Hoboes that break safes in country post-offices come under the Yegg-men classification. [McClure's Magazine, February 1901]

Popularized by the Pinkerton agency detectives. The 1900 "Proceedings of the 26th annual convention of the American Bankers' Association," whose members were protected by the Pinkerton's National Detective Agency, reported a letter dated Nov. 23 or 24, 1899, returning $540, taken earlier that year, to the Scandinavian-American Bank of St. Paul, Minn., noting that the thieves had been so hounded by detectives that they gave up the gains and advised the bank to advertise that it was a member of the American Bankers Association, because "the American Bankers Association is too tough for poor 'grafters.'" The letter supposedly was signed "John Yegg," but this was said to be a pseudonym and the report identified the man arrested later in the case as William Barrett.

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flea (n.)

Old English flea "flea," from Proto-Germanic *flauhaz (source also of Old Norse flo, Middle Dutch vlo, German Floh), perhaps related to Old English fleon "to flee," with a notion of "the jumping parasite," but more likely from PIE *plou- "flea" (source also of Latin pulex, Greek psylla; see Pulex).

Chaucer's plural is fleen. Flea-bag is from 1839 as low slang for "a bed;" by 1942 in British slang as "a dog." Flea-collar is from 1953. Flea-pit (1937) is an old colloquial name for a movie-house, or, as OED puts it, "an allegedly verminous place of public assembly." Flea-circus is from 1886. 

"A man named 'Mueller' put on the first trained-flea circus in America at the old Stone and Austin museum in Boston nearly forty years ago. Another German named 'Auvershleg' had the first traveling flea circus in this country thirty years ago. In addition to fairs and museums, I get as high as $25 for a private exhibition." ["Professor" William Heckler, quoted in Popular Mechanics, February 1928. Printed at the top of his programs were "Every action is visible to the naked eye" and "No danger of desertion."]
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tabloid (n.)

1884, Tabloid, "small tablet of medicine," trademark name (by Burroughs, Wellcome and Co.) for compressed or concentrated chemicals and drugs, a hybrid formed from tablet + Greek-derived suffix -oid. By 1898, it was being used figuratively to mean a compressed form or dose of anything, hence tabloid journalism (1901), and newspapers that typified it (1917), so called for having short, condensed news articles and/or for being small in size. Associated originally with Alfred C. Harmsworth, editor and proprietor of the London Daily Mail.

Mr. Harmsworth entered a printing office twenty years ago as office-boy, and today owns thirty periodicals besides The Mail. Upon a friendly challenge from Mr. Pulitzer of The New York World, the English journalist issued the first number of The World for the new century in the ideal form. The size of the page was reduced to four columns and the general make-up was similar in appearance to that of one of the weekly magazines. Current news was presented in condensed and tabulated form, of which the editor says: "The world enters today upon the twentieth or time-saving century. I claim that by my system of condensed or tabloid journalism hundreds of working hours can be saved each year." ["The Twentieth Century Newspaper," in The Social Gospel, February 1901]
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dingbat (n.)

1838, American English, apparently originally the name of some kind of alcoholic drink, of unknown origin. It has joined that class of words (such as dingus, doohickey, gadget, gizmo, thingumabob) which are conjured up to supply names for items whose proper names are unknown or not recollected. Used at various periods for "money," "a professional tramp," "a muffin," "male genitalia," "a Chinese," "an Italian," "a woman who is neither your sister nor your mother," and "a foolish person in authority." Popularized in sense of "foolish person" by U.S. TV show "All in the Family" (1971-79), though this usage dates from 1905. In typography, by 1912 as a printer's term for ornament used in headline or with illustrations.

About 10:30 o'clock there was a snap of breaking metal, and the machine was stopped. It was discovered that the gilderfluke had come into contact with the dudad which operates the dingus on the diaphason, thereby letting the Johnson bar oscillate as it were between Alpha and Omega, thus preventing the dingbat from percolating the perihelion of the gazabo, and causing the dofunny on the parallelogram to drop into oblivion. [from an Illinois newspaper's account of a production delay caused by a Linotype machine breakdown, reprinted in Inland Printer, Chicago, February 1903]
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constructive (adj.)

1670s, "derived by interpretation, not directly expressed but inferred," from French constructif or directly from Medieval Latin constructivus, from Latin construct-, past-participle stem of construere "to heap up," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + struere "to pile up" (from PIE root *stere- "to spread").

Meaning "pertaining to construction" is from 1817; sense of "having the quality of constructing" is from 1841, especially "contributing helpfully." Related: Constructively; constructiveness. Constructive criticism is attested by 1841, originally in theology and philosophy.

Constructive criticism has frequently secured, in various departments of scientific inquiry, positive results, the value of which cannot be over-estimated; but there are not wanting instances in which a destructively critical method has performed services equally as valuable. Groundless hypotheses, unwarrantable theories, and baseless prejudices, required to be swept away, so that a constructive criticism might operate freely and successfully. [The Christian Ambassador, vol. ix, 1871]

It later was extended to education and became personal:

Constructive criticism points out a specific deficiency, and suggests a specific remedy. It is destructive in tearing down the wrong, but constructive in replacing value. Such criticism will afford the teacher the satisfaction of having a definite basis on which to work. [George M. Baker, "Constructive Supervision," in The American School Board Journal, February 1918] 
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wet (adj.)

Old English wæt "moist, rainy, liquid," also as a noun. "moisture, liquid drink," from Proto-Germanic *wed- (source also of Old Frisian wet ). Also from cognate Old Norse vatr; all from PIE root *wed- (1) "water; wet." Of paint, ink, etc., "not yet dry" from 1510s. Opposed to dry in reference to the U.S. battles over prohibition from 1870. Wet blanket "person who has a dispiriting effect" is recorded from 1871, from use of blankets drenched in water to smother fires (the phrase is attested in this literal sense from 1660s).

Do we not know them, those wet blankets who come down on our pleasant little fires and extinguish them, with no more ruth than the rain feels when it pours on the encampment of the merry picnic party, or floods the tents of a flower show? ["Wet Blankets," in Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, February, 1871]

All wet "in the wrong" is recorded from 1923, American English; earlier simply wet "ineffectual," and perhaps ultimately from slang meaning "drunken" (c. 1700). Wet-nurse is from 1610s. The diver's wet-suit is from 1955. Wet dream is from 1851; in the same sense Middle English had ludificacioun "an erotic dream."

He knew som tyme a man of religion, þat gaff hym gretelie vnto chastitie bothe of his harte & of his body noghtwithstondyng he was tempid with grete ludificacions on þe nyght. ["Alphabet of Tales," c. 1450]
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leprechaun (n.)

c. 1600, from Irish lupracan, metathesis of Old Irish luchorpan, which traditionally is explained as literally "a very small body," from lu "little, small" (from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight") + corpan, diminutive of corp "body," from Latin corpus "body" (from PIE root *kwrep- "body, form, appearance"). However, Celtic linguistic scholarship has recently found a different explanation and connected the word to Latin Lupercalia:

New research by Simon Rodway, Michael Clarke and Jacopo Bisagni, published in the journal Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, traces them back to the Roman Luperci. The Luperci were bands of aristocratic youths who ran naked through ancient Rome in the festival of Lupercalia on the 15 February. In the fifth century A.D. St Augustine of Hippo compared the Luperci with the Greek werewolves who were believed to change from men into wolves by swimming through a lake in Arcadia. Two centuries later Irish scholars misunderstood Augustine. They thought he meant that the Luperci were an ancient non-human race. Because they could swim they were supposed to have survived Noah's Flood and taken refuge in Ireland. So in medieval Irish legends the leprechauns or 'little Luperci' still lived under water. The wolf connection was soon forgotten and eventually the 'little Lupercus' became the familiar land-dwelling leprechaun of modern Irish folklore and tourism. [Patrick Sims-Williams, Professor of Celtic Studies in Aberystwyth University, Wales, cited at Languagelog]

Commonly spelled lubrican in 17c. English; "Century Dictionary" (1902) has it under leprechawn. Variant leithbragan probably is Irish folk etymology, from leith "half" + brog "brogue," because the spirit was "supposed to be always employed in making or mending a single shoe."

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