In lexicons of sea language going back to 1759, the bitter end is the part of a cable which is round about the bitts (the two great timbers used to belay cables) when the ship is at anchor (see bitt).
Bitter end of the Cable, the End which is wound about the Bitts. ["The News-Readers Pocket-Book: Or, a Military Dictionary," London, 1759]
So, when a cable is played out to the bitter end, there is no more left to play. The term began to be used c. 1835 in non-nautical use and with probable influence of or merger with bitter (adj.).
In the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, the tenth or outermost of the revolving spheres of the universe, which was supposed to revolve from east to west in twenty-four hours, and to carry the others along with it in its motion; hence, any great or first source of motion. [Century Dictionary]
A translation of Arabic al-muharrik al-awwal "the first moving" (Avicenna). Englished by Chaucer as the firste Moeuyng (c. 1400). Old science also had primum frigidum "pure cold: an elementary substance, according to the doctrine of Parmenides."
c. 1300, Prestre Johan, legendary medieval Christian king and priest, said to have ruled either in the Far East or Ethiopia. Prestre (attested as a surname late 12c.) is from Vulgar Latin *prester, a transition between Latin presbyter and English priest. First mentioned in the West by mid-12c. chronicler Otto of Freising, who told how Johannes Presbyter won a great victory over the Persians and the Medes. Between 1165 and 1177 a forged letter purporting to be from him circulated in Europe. All this recalls the time when the Christian West was militarily threatened on its frontiers by Muslim powers, dreaming of a mythical deliverer. Compare Old French prestre Jehan (13c.), Italian prete Gianni.
attested by 1898 as a speculation.
If through fear of entangling alliances the United States should return the Philippines to Spain, Mr. Page asserted that the predatory nations would swoop down upon them and a world war would result. [New York Times, Dec. 16, 1898]
Applied to the first one almost as soon as it began in 1914 ("England has Thrown Lot with France in World War" — headline, Pittsburgh Press, Aug. 2, 1914). World War I was coined 1939, replacing Great War as the most common name for it; First World War, World War II, and Second World War all also are from 1939. Old English had woruldgewinn, woruldgefeoht, both of which might be translated "world war," but with "world" in the sense of "earthly, secular."
The motto is often translated as "He (God) is favorable to our undertakings," but this is not the only possible translation. Thomson wrote: "The pyramid signifies Strength and Duration: The Eye over it & Motto allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause." The original design (by William Barton) showed the pyramid and the motto Deo Favente Perennis "God favoring through the years."
The Latin elements are the perfective of annuere "indicate approval, agree to, grant," literally "nod to (as a sign)" (from assimilated form of ad "to;" see ad-, + nuere "to nod;" see numinous) + perfect passive of coeptus, past participle of coepere "to begin, commence."
1824; said to have been given as a toast by Sir William Curtis (1752-1829), a beloved lord mayor of London in the 1820s, who seems to have been a figure of fun to whom many mangled phrases were attributed. Among the toasts he is alleged to have given at public dinners were "The Female Ladies of London;" "The three C's—Cox, King, and Curtis;" and "The three R's—Reading, Writing, and Rithmetic."
It has been very much the fashion amongst a class of persons to attribute to Sir W. C. ... a vulgarity and ignorance of speech which are by no means consistent with his character and conduct. The worthy and hospitable baronet has a rapid mode of speech, but it is always correct ; and although some eccentricities are mixed up in his composition, he is highly honourable, and has been a very useful member of society, particularly to his London constituents. [The Mirror, Jan. 29, 1825]
After listing some examples, the article continues:
It is, however, very certain, that at a city festival some years ago, having indulged very freely, he fell asleep, when some wag, choosing to consider him dead, wrote his epitaph, which was found next morning pinned to the baronet's dress coat:—
"Here lies the great Curtis,
Of London, Lord May'r:
He's left this here world,
And gone to that there."
childish deformed language (there are many different versions), by 1889 (hog Latin in same sense is attested by 1807).
The animals play quite an important part in the naming [of children's languages], as the hog, dog, fly, goose, pigeon, pig, all give names, with Mr. Hog leading. Among the names the Latins take the lead, and Hog Latin leads the list, being accredited as naming nearly as many languages as all the other names combined. Besides Hog Latin, there is Dog Latin, Pig Latin, Goose Latin, and Bum Latin. Then there is Greekish and Peddlers' French and Pigeon English. ... Very few can give any reason for the naming of the languages. In fact, no one can fully say where the great majority of names came from, for in most cases in the naming the following pretty well expresses the difficulty: "It was born before I was. I can't tell how young I was when I first heard of it." ["The Secret Language of Children," in The North Western Monthly, October 1897]
For the language itself, compare loucherbem, a 20c. French slang similar to pig Latin, which takes its name from the form of the word boucher in that language (which is said to have originated among the Paris butchers).
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]
parting salutation, 1860, of unknown origin, perhaps from a German idiom (compare German parting salutation adieu so lange, the full sense of which probably is something like "farewell, whilst (we're apart)"); or perhaps from Hebrew shalom (via Yiddish sholom). Some have noted a similarity to Scandinavian leave-taking phrases, such as Norwegian Adjø så lenge, Farvel så lenge, Mor'n så lenge, literally "bye so long, farewell so long, morning so long;" and Swedish Hej så länge "good-bye for now," with så länge "for now" attested since 1850 according to Swedish sources. Most etymology sources seem to lean toward the German origin. So long (adv.) "for such a long time" is from late Old English.
Earlier guesses that it was a sailors' corruption of a South Pacific form of Arabic salaam are not now regarded as convincing. "Dictionary of American Slang" also adds to the list of candidates Irish slán "safe," said to be used as a salutation in parting. The phrase seems to have turned up simultaneously in America, Britain, and perhaps Canada, originally among lower classes. First attested use is in title and text of the last poem in Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" in the 1860 edition.
An unknown sphere, more real than I dream'd, more direct, darts awakening rays about me — So long!
Remember my words — I may again return,
I love you — I depart from materials;
I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.
Whitman's friend and fan William Sloane Kennedy wrote in 1923:
The salutation of parting — 'So long!' — was, I believe, until recent years, unintelligible to the majority of persons in America, especially in the interior, and to members of the middle and professional classes. I had never heard of it until I read it in Leaves of Grass, but since then have quite often heard it used by the laboring class and other classes in New England cities. Walt wrote to me, defining 'so long' thus: "A salutation of departure, greatly used among sailors, sports, & prostitutes — the sense of it is 'Till we meet again,' — conveying an inference that somehow they will doubtless so meet, sooner or later." ... It is evidently about equivalent to our 'See you later.' The phrase is reported as used by farm laborers near Banff, Scotland. In Canada it is frequently heard; 'and its use is not entirely confined to the vulgar.' It is in common use among the working classes of Liverpool and among sailors at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and in Dorsetshire. ... The London Globe suggests that the expression is derived from the Norwegian 'Saa laenge,' a common form of 'farewell,' au revoir. If so, the phrase was picked up from the Norwegians in America, where 'So long' first was heard. The expression is now (1923) often used by the literary and artistic classes.