Etymology
Advertisement
Three Rs (n.)

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."
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
jitney (n.)

"bus which carries passengers for a fare," 1915, short for jitney bus (1906), American English, from gitney, jetney (n.), said in a 1903 newspaper article to be a St. Louis slang for any small coin, especially "a nickel," (the buses' fare typically was a nickel), the coin name attested or suggested by 1898, probably via New Orleans from French jeton "coin-sized metal disk, slug, counter" (see jetton).

"I'll give a nickel for a kiss,"
Said Cholly to a pretty miss.
"Skiddo," she cried, "you stingy cuss,"
"You're looking for a jitney buss."
["Jitney Jingle," 1915]

The origin and signification of the word was much discussed when the buses first appeared. Some reports say the slang word for "nickel" comes from the bus; most say the reverse, however there does not seem to be much record of jitney in a coin sense before the buses came along (a writer in "The Hub," August 1915, claims to have heard and used it as a small boy in San Francisco, and reported hearsay that "It has been in use there since the days of '49"). Most sources credit it to the U.S. West, especially California, though others trace it to "southern negroes, especially in Memphis" ["The Pacific," Feb. 7, 1915].

Related entries & more 
debunk (v.)

"expose false or nonsensical claims or sentiments," 1923, from de- + bunk (n.2); apparently first used by U.S. novelist William Woodward (1874-1950), in his best-seller "Bunk;" the notion being "to take the bunk out of things." It got a boost from Harold U. Faulkner's "Colonial History Debunked" [Harper's Magazine, December 1925], which article itself quickly was debunked, and the word was in vogue in America in the mid-1920s. Related: Debunked; debunking.

Wets and Drys, Fundamentalists and Modernists, are busily engaged in debunking one another to the delight and edification of a public which divides its time between automobiling and listening-in. Is it art, or education, or religion that you prefer? You have only to get the right station and what you last heard about the matter will be cleverly debunked while you wait. [Carl Vernon Tower, "Genealogy 'Debunked," in Annual Reports of the Tower Genealogical Society, 1925]

It was, naturally, execrated in England.

The origin of to debunk is doubtless the same as that of American jargon in general — the inability of an ill-educated and unintelligent democracy to assimilate long words. Its intrusion in our own tongue is due partly to the odious novelty of the word itself, and partly to the prevailing fear that to write exact English nowadays is to be put down as a pedant and a prig. [letter to the editor, London Daily Telegraph, March 2, 1935, cited in Mencken, "The American Language"]
Related entries & more 
predestination (n.)

mid-14c., predestinacioun, "the action of God in foreordaining certain of mankind through grace to salvation or eternal life," from Old French predestinacion and directly from Church Latin praedestinationem (nominative praedestinatio) "a determining beforehand," noun of action from past-participle stem of praedestinare "set before as a goal; appoint or determine beforehand," from Latin prae "before" (see pre-) + destinare "appoint, determine" (see destine (v.)).

The Latin word was first used in the theological sense by Augustine; given prominence by Calvin. Related: Predestinarian "one who believes in the doctrine of predestination" (1660s).

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his onlybegotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity. [From article xvii of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England]
Related entries & more 
medicine man (n.)

"Native North American shaman," by 1801, from adoption of the word medicine in native speech with a sense of "magical influence; something supposed to possess curative, supernatural, or mysterious power." The U.S.-Canadian boundary they called the Medicine Line (attested by 1880), because it conferred a kind of magic protection: punishment for crimes committed on one side of it could be avoided by crossing over to the other. Compare Middle English use of medicine in secondary senses of "moral, psychological, or social remedy; safeguard, defense."

Unless some understanding is arrived at between the American and Canadian Governments that offenders may be promptly and vigorously dealt with, I very much fear that killing and stealing will increase to such an extent that the country along the border will be scarcely habitable. When the Indians are made to understand that the mere fact of "hopping" across the line does not exempt them from punishment, there will be a much greater guarantee of their good behaviour. Now they call the boundary the "Medicine line," because no matter what they have done upon one side they feel perfectly secure after having arrived upon the other. [Report of Superintendent L.N.F. Crozier, Dec. 1880, in "North-West Mounted Police Force Commissioner's Report," 1880]

Hence also medicine bag "pouch containing some article supposed to possess curative or magical powers, worn on the person by native North American people" (1802). 

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
jackpot (n.)

also jack-pot, "big prize," 1944, from slot machine sense (1932), from now-obsolete poker sense (1881) in reference to antes that begin when no player has a pair of jacks or better; from jack (n.) in the card-playing sense + pot (n.1). Earlier, in criminal slang, it meant "trouble," especially "an arrest" (1902).

The regular Draw-Poker game is usually varied by occasional Jack-Pots, which are played once in so many deals, or when all have refused to play, or when the player deals who holds the buck, a marker placed in the pool with every jack-pot. In a jack-pot each player puts up an equal stake and receives a hand. The pot must then be opened by a player holding a hand of the value of a pair of knaves (jacks) or better. If no player holds so valuable a hand the deal passes and each player adds a small sum to the pot or pool. When the pot is opened the opener does so by putting up any sum he chooses, within the limit, and his companions must pay in the same amount or "drop." They also possess the right to raise the opener. The new cards called for are then dealt and the opener starts the betting, the play proceeding as in the regular game. [Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1911, "Poker." The article notes "Jack-Pots were introduced about 1870."]

To hit the jackpot "be very successful" is from 1938.

Related entries & more 
sugar (n.)
late 13c., sugre, from Old French sucre "sugar" (12c.), from Medieval Latin succarum, from Arabic sukkar, from Persian shakar, from Sanskrit sharkara "ground or candied sugar," originally "grit, gravel" (cognate with Greek kroke "pebble"). The Arabic word also was borrowed in Italian (zucchero), Spanish (azucar, with the Arabic article), and German (Old High German zucura, German Zucker), and its forms are represented in most European languages (such as Serbian cukar, Polish cukier, Russian sakhar).

Its Old World home was India (Alexander the Great's companions marveled at the "honey without bees") and it remained exotic in Europe until the Arabs began to cultivate it in Sicily and Spain; not until after the Crusades did it begin to rival honey as the West's sweetener. The Spaniards in the West Indies began raising sugar cane in 1506; first grown in Cuba 1523; first cultivated in Brazil 1532. The reason for the -g- in the English word is obscure (OED compares flagon, from French flacon). The pronunciation shift from s- to sh- is probably from the initial long vowel sound syu- (as in sure).

As a type of chemical compound from 1826. Slang "euphemistic substitute for an imprecation" [OED] is attested from 1891. As a term of endearment, first recorded 1930. Sugar-cane is from 1560s. Sugar-maple is from 1731. Sugar loaf was originally a moulded conical mass of refined sugar (early 15c.); now obsolete, but sense extended 17c. to hills, hats, etc. of that shape.
Related entries & more 
sheep (n.)

ruminant mammal, Old English sceap, scep, from West Germanic *skæpan (source also of Old Saxon scap, Old Frisian skep, Middle Low German schap, Middle Dutch scaep, Dutch schaap, Old High German scaf, German Schaf), of unknown origin. Not found in Scandinavian (Danish has faar for "sheep") or Gothic (which uses lamb), and with no known cognates outside Germanic. The more usual Indo-European word for the animal is represented in English by ewe.

The plural form was leveled with the singular in Old English, but Old Northumbrian had a plural scipo. Used since Old English as a type of timidity and figuratively of those under the guidance of God. The meaning "stupid, timid person" is attested from 1540s. The image of the wolf in sheep's clothing was in Old English (from Matthew vii.15); that of separating the sheep from the goats is from Matthew xxv.33. To count sheep in a bid to induce sleep is recorded from 1854 but seems not to have been commonly written about until 1870s. It might simply be a type of a tedious activity, but an account of shepherd life from Australia from 1849 ["Sidney's Emigrant's Journal"] describes the night-shepherd ("hut-keeper") taking a count of the sheep regularly at the end of his shift to protect against being answerable for any animals later lost or killed.

Sheep's eyes "loving looks" is attested from 1520s (compare West Frisian skiepseach, Dutch schaapsoog, German Schafsauge). A sheep-biter was "a dog that worries sheep" (1540s); "a mutton-monger" (1590s); and "a whore-monger" (1610s, i.e. one who "chases mutton"); hence Shakespeare's sheep-biting "thieving, sneaky."

Related entries & more 
alchemy (n.)
Origin and meaning of alchemy

"medieval chemistry; the supposed science of transmutation of base metals into silver or gold" (involving also the quest for the universal solvent, quintessence, etc.), mid-14c., from Old French alchimie (14c.), alquemie (13c.), from Medieval Latin alkimia, from Arabic al-kimiya, from Greek khemeioa (found c.300 C.E. in a decree of Diocletian against "the old writings of the Egyptians"), all meaning "alchemy," and of uncertain origin.

Perhaps from an old name for Egypt (Khemia, literally "land of black earth," found in Plutarch), or from Greek khymatos "that which is poured out," from khein "to pour," from PIE root *gheu- "to pour" [Watkins, but Klein, citing W. Muss-Arnolt, calls this folk etymology]. The word seems to have elements of both origins.

Mahn ... concludes, after an elaborate investigation, that Gr. khymeia was probably the original, being first applied to pharmaceutical chemistry, which was chiefly concerned with juices or infusions of plants; that the pursuits of the Alexandrian alchemists were a subsequent development of chemical study, and that the notoriety of these may have caused the name of the art to be popularly associated with the ancient name of Egypt. [OED]

The al- is the Arabic definite article, "the." The art and the name were adopted by the Arabs from Alexandrians and entered Europe via Arabic Spain. Alchemy was the "chemistry" of the Middle Ages and early modern times, involving both occult and natural philosophy and practical chemistry and metallurgy. After c. 1600 the strictly scientific sense went with chemistry, and alchemy was left with the sense "pursuit of the transmutation of baser metals into gold, search for the universal solvent and the panacea."

Related entries & more 
jazz (n.)

by 1912, American English, first attested in baseball slang; as a type of music, attested by 1915. Perhaps ultimately from slang jasm(1860) "energy, vitality, spirit," perhaps especially in a woman. This is perhaps from earlier gism in the same sense (1842).

By the end of the 1800s, "gism" meant not only "vitality" but also "virility," leading to the word being used as slang for "semen." But — and this is significant — although a similar evolution happened to the word "jazz," which became slang for the act of sex, that did not happen until 1918 at the earliest. That is, the sexual connotation was not part of the origin of the word, but something added later. [Lewis Porter, "Where Did 'Jazz,' the Word, Come From?" http://wbgo.org Feb. 26, 2018]

Meaning "rubbish, unnecessary talk or ornamentation" is from 1918. Slang all that jazz "et cetera" first recorded 1939. Further observations from Porter's summation of the research:

"Jazz" seems to have originated among white Americans, and the earliest printed uses are in California baseball writing, where it means "lively, energetic." (The word still carries this meaning, as in "Let’s jazz this up!") The earliest known usage occurs on April 2, 1912, in an article discovered by researcher George A. Thompson, and sent to me courtesy of [Professor Gerald ] Cohen.
... By 1915, jazz was being applied to a new kind of music in Chicago.  It seems to have been first applied to Tom Brown's all-white band, which hailed from New Orleans. This was followed by many printed references to jazz as a musical style.
Related entries & more 

Page 31