Etymology
Advertisement
Harriet 

fem. proper name, fem. of Harry.

We think that gentlemen lose a particle of their respect for young ladies who allow their names to be abbreviated into such cognomens as Kate, Madge, Bess, Nell, &c. Surely it is more lady-like to be called Catharine, Margaret, Eliza, or Ellen. We have heard the beautiful name Virginia degraded into Jinny; and Harriet called Hatty, or even Hadge. [Eliza Leslie, "Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book," Philadelphia, 1839]

Nautical slang Harriet Lane "preserved meat" (1896) is the name of the victim of a notorious murder in which it was alleged the killer chopped up her body.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
London 

chief city and capital of England, Latin Londinium (Tacitus, c. 115), according to the "Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names," "unexplained." It is often said to be "place belonging to a man named *Londinos," a supposed Celtic personal name meaning "the wild one," "but this etymology is rejected in an emphatic footnote in Jackson 1953 (p. 308), and we have as yet nothing to put in its place" [Margaret Gelling, "Signposts to the Past: Place-Names and the History of England," Chichester, 1978]. Its mythical history is told in Layamon's "Brut" (c. 1200).

In late Old English often with -burg, -wic, or -ceaster. As an adjective, Old English had Lundenisc, but this seems to have fallen from use, and modern Londonish (1838) probably is a re-coinage. Also Londony (1884); Londonesque (1852); Londinensian (George Meredith); Londonian (1824, marked "rare" in OED).

London Bridge the children's singing game is attested from 1827. London broil "large flank steak broiled then cut in thin slices" attested 1930s, American English; London fog first attested 1785.

Related entries & more 
magpie (n.)

popular name of a common bird of Europe, Asia, and America, known for its chattering, acquisitiveness, curiosity, and mimicry, c. 1600, earlier simply pie (mid-13c.).

The first element is Mag, nickname for Margaret, long used in proverbial and slang English for qualities associated generally with women, especially in this case "idle chattering" (as in Magge tales "tall tales, nonsense," early 15c.; also compare French margot "magpie," from Margot, pet form of Marguerite). The name Margaret, and its reduced forms Mag, Madge, diminutive Maggie, also has long been familiarly applied to birds. Pies were proverbial since Middle English for chattering (as were jays), hence the application of pie to a prattling gossip or tattler, also "sly person, informer" (late 14c.) and in 15c.-16c. a wily pie (or wyly pye) was "a cunning person."

The second element, pie, is the earlier name of the bird, from Old French pie, from Latin pica "magpie" (source also of Spanish pega), fem. of picus "woodpecker," from PIE root *(s)peik- "woodpecker, magpie" (source also of Umbrian peica "magpie," Sanskrit pikah "Indian cuckoo," Old Norse spætr, German Specht "woodpecker"); possibly from PIE root *pi-, denoting pointedness, of the beak. The application to pies might be because the magpie also has a long, pointed tail.

The birds are proverbial for pilfering and hoarding and for their indiscriminate appetites (see pica (n.2)); they can be taught to speak, and have been regarded since the Middle Ages as ill omens.

Whan pyes chatter vpon a house it is a sygne of ryghte euyll tydynges. [1507]

Divination by numbering magpies is attested from c. 1780 in Lincolnshire; the rhyme varies from place to place, the only consistency being that one is bad, two are good.

The councils which magpies appear to hold together, at particular seasons, commonly called "folkmotes," are associated in the minds of many with superstitious and ominous notions. The innocent objects of terror, while meeting together most probably for the purpose of choosing mates, are supposed to be conspiring and clubbing their wits, for the weal or woe of the inhabitants of the neighbouring village. If they are of an even number and carry on their cheerful, noisy chatter, it is supposed to betoken good to old and young—but if there is an odd magpie perched apart from the rest, silent, and disconsolate, the reverse of this is apprehended, and mischievous consequences are inevitably expected. [The Saturday Magazine, Jan. 23, 1841]
Related entries & more 
lion (n.)

late 12c., from Old French lion "lion," also figuratively "hero" (12c.), from Latin leonem (nominative leo) "lion; the constellation Leo," from Greek leon (genitive leontos), a word from a non-Indo-European language, perhaps Semitic (compare Hebrew labhi "lion," plural lebaim; Egyptian labai, lawai "lioness"). Old English had the word straight from Latin as leo (Anglian lea).

The Latin word was borrowed throughout Germanic (compare Old Frisian lawa; Middle Dutch leuwe, Dutch leeuw; Old High German lewo, German Löwe); it is also found in most other European languages, often via Germanic (Old Church Slavonic livu, Polish lew, Czech lev, Old Irish leon, Welsh llew).

Extended 17c. to American big cats. Sometimes used ironically of other animals (for example Cotswold lion "sheep" (16c.; lyons of Cotteswold is from mid-15c.). In early 19c., to avoid advertising breaches of the game laws, hare, when served as food was listed as lion.

Paired alliteratively with lamb since late 14c. Used figuratively from c. 1200 in English of lion-like persons, in an approving sense, "one who is fiercely brave," and a disapproving one, "tyrannical leader, greedy devourer." Lion-hearted is from 1708. Lion's share "the greatest portion" is attested from 1701. The image of the lion's mouth as a place of great danger is from c. 1200. 

Lowse me, lauerd, ut of þe liunes muð. ["St. Margaret of Antioch," c. 1200]
Related entries & more 
nigger (n.)
Origin and meaning of nigger

1786, earlier neger (1568, Scottish and northern England dialect), negar, negur, from French nègre, from Spanish negro (see Negro). From the earliest usage it was "the term that carries with it all the obloquy and contempt and rejection which whites have inflicted on blacks" [cited in Gowers, 1965, probably Harold R. Isaacs]. But as black African inferiority was at one time a near universal assumption in English-speaking lands, the word in some cases could be used without deliberate insult. More sympathetic writers late 18c. and early 19c. seem to have used black (n.) and, after the American Civil War, colored person.

Nigger is more English in form than negro, and was formerly and to some extent still is used without intent; but its use is now confined to colloquial or illiterate speech, in which it generally conveys more or less of contempt. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
"You're a fool nigger, and the worst day's work Pa ever did was to buy you," said Scarlett slowly. ... There, she thought, I've said "nigger" and Mother wouldn't like that at all. [Margaret Mitchell, "Gone With the Wind," 1936]

It was also applied by English colonists to the dark-skinned native peoples in India, Australia, Polynesia.

One hears the contemptuous term "nigger" still applied to natives by those who should know better, especially by youths just come from home, and somewhat intoxicated by sudden power. [Samuel Smith, "India Revisited," in "The Contemporary Review," July 1886]

 The reclamation of the word as a neutral or positive term in black culture (not universally regarded as a worthwhile enterprise), often with a suggestion of "soul" or "style," is attested first in the U.S. South, later (1968) in the Northern, urban-based Black Power movement. The variant nigga, attested from 1827 (as niggah from 1835), is found usually in situations where blacks use the word. Also compare nigra.

[F]or when a town black has called a country black (equally black with himself) a "dam black plantation nigga," you may know that he has been terribly provoked, and has now ejected his last drop of gall in that most contemptuous epithet. [The Pamphleteer, vol. XXVIII, No. LVI, 1827]

Used in combinations (such as nigger-brown) since 1840s for various dark brown or black hues or objects; euphemistic substitutions (such as Zulu) began to appear in these senses c. 1917. Brazil nuts were called nigger toes by 1896. Nigger stick "prison guard's baton" is attested by 1971. To work like a nigger "work very hard" is by 1836.

Slang phrase nigger in the woodpile "a concealed motive or unknown factor affecting a situation in an adverse way" [OED] is attested by 1800; Thornton's "American Glossary" (1912) defines it as "A mode of accounting for the disappearance of fuel," hence "an unsolved mystery." Nigger heaven "the top gallery in a (segregated) theater" first attested 1878 in reference to Troy, N.Y. Nigger-shooter "slingshot" is by 1876.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement

Page 3