1640s, of textile fabric, "downy, fuzzy," later "flimsy, unsubstantial" (1660s), a word of unknown origin. One theory is that it is a corruption of Silesia, the German region, where thin linen or cotton fabric was made for export. Silesia, in reference to cloth, is attested in English from 1670s; and sleasie, sleazy as an abbreviated form is attested from late 17c., but OED finds the evidence to be against "any original connexion." The sense of "sordid, squalid" is from 1941. Related: Sleazily; sleaziness.
"Slesie linnen, so calld becaus brought from the province of Silesia, or as the Germans call it Schlesia, wher the capital city Breslaw is maintaind by this manufacture, which is the chief if not the only merchandize of that place." [from notes on Lansdowne manuscripts by antiquarian Bishop White Kennett (1660-1728), quoted in Halliwell]
A day is a more magnificent cloth than any muslin, the mechanism that makes it is infinitely cunninger, and you shall not conceal the sleazy, fraudulent, rotten hours you have slipped into the piece, nor fear that any honest thread, or straighter steel, or more inflexible shaft, will not testify in the web. [Emerson, "The Conduct of Life," 1860]
"poor and poorly educated Southern U.S. white person, cracker," attested 1830 in a specialized sense ("This may be ascribed to the Red Necks, a name bestowed upon the Presbyterians in Fayetteville" — Ann Royall, "Southern Tour I," p.148), from red (adj.1) + neck (n.).
According to various theories, red perhaps from anger, or from pellagra, but most likely from mule farmers' outdoors labor in the sun, wearing a shirt and straw hat, with the neck exposed. Compare redshanks, old derogatory name for Scots Highlanders and Celtic Irish (1540s), from their going bare-legged.
It turns up again in an American context in 1904, again from Fayetteville, in a list of dialect words, meaning this time "an uncouth countryman" ["Dialect Notes," American Dialect Society, vol. ii, part vi, 1904], but seems not to have been in widespread use in the U.S. before c. 1915. In the meantime, it was used from c. 1894 in South Africa (translating Dutch Roinek) as an insulting Boer name for "an Englishman."
Another common Boer name for an Englishman is "redneck," drawn from the fact that the back of an Englishman's neck is often burnt red by the sun. This does not happen to the Boer, who always wears a broad-brimmed hat. [James Bryce, "Impressions of South Africa," London, 1899]
"opaque white fluid secreted by mammary glands of female mammals, suited to the nourishment of their young," Middle English milk, from Old English meoluc (West Saxon), milc (Anglian), from Proto-Germanic *meluk- "milk" (source also of Old Norse mjolk, Old Frisian melok, Old Saxon miluk, Dutch melk, Old High German miluh, German Milch, Gothic miluks), from *melk- "to milk," from PIE root *melg- "to wipe, to rub off," also "to stroke; to milk," in reference to the hand motion involved in milking an animal. Old Church Slavonic noun meleko (Russian moloko, Czech mleko) is considered to be adopted from Germanic.
Of milk-like plant juices or saps from c. 1200. Milk chocolate (eating chocolate made with milk solids, paler and sweeter) is recorded by 1723; milk shake was used from 1889 for a variety of concoctions, but the modern version (composed of milk, flavoring, etc., mixed by shaking) is from the 1930s. Milk tooth (1727) uses the word in its figurative sense "period of infancy," attested from 17c. To cry over spilt milk (representing anything which, once misused, cannot be recovered) is first attested 1836 in writing of Canadian humorist Thomas C. Haliburton. Milk and honey is from the Old Testament phrase describing the richness of the Promised Land (Numbers xvi.13, Old English meolc and hunie). Milk of human kindness is from "Macbeth" (1605).
Old English bæcere "baker, one who bakes (especially bread)," agent noun from bacan "to bake" (see bake (v.)). Cognate with Dutch bakker, German Bäcker, Becker. In the Middle Ages, the craft had two divisions, braun-bakeres and whit-bakeres.
White bakers shall bake no hors brede..broune bakers shall bake whete brede as it comyth grounde fro the mylle withoute ony bultyng of the same. Also the seid broune bakers shall bake hors brede of clene benys and pesyn, And also brede that is called housholdersbrede. [Letterbook in the City of London Records Office, Guildhall, 1441]
Baker's dozen "thirteen" is from 1590s.
These dealers [hucksters] ... on purchasing their bread from the bakers, were privileged by law to receive thirteen batches for twelve, and this would seem to have been the extent of their profits. Hence the expression, still in use, "A baker's dozen." [H.T. Riley, "Liber Albus," 1859]
But Brewer says the custom originated when there were heavy penalties for short weight, bakers giving the extra bread to secure themselves.
Baker, to spell, an expression for attempting anything difficult. In old spelling-books, baker was the first word of two syllables, and when a child came to it, he thought he had a hard task before him. [Barrère and Leland, "A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant," 1897].
common name of plants of the genus Daucus, cultivated from ancient times for their large, tapering, edible root, c. 1500, karette, from French carrotte, from Latin carota, from Greek karōton "carrot," probably from PIE *kre-, from root *ker- (1) "horn; head," and so called for its horn-like shape. A Middle English name for the wild carrot was dauke (late 14c.), from Latin.
The plant originally was white-rooted and was a medicinal plant to the ancients, who used it as an aphrodisiac and to prevent poisoning. Not entirely distinguished from parsnips in ancient times. A purple-rooted variety existed perhaps as early as 7c. in Afghanistan and was introduced in Europe by Arabs c. 1100. It was cultivated into the modern orange root 16c.-17c. in the Netherlands. Thus the word's use as a color name is not recorded before 1670s in English; originally it referred to yellowish-red hair.
The theory that carrots are good for the eyesight may have begun in ancient times, but it was "much embroidered in the Second World War, when, in order to encourage the consumption of carrots, one of the few foodstuffs not in short supply, the British authorities put it about that pilots of night-fighter aircraft consumed vast quantities to enable them to see in the dark." [Ayto, "Diner's Dictionary"]
"large web-footed sea-bird of the petrel family," 1670s, probably from Spanish or Portuguese albatros, an alteration of alcatraz "web-footed sea-bird; cormorant," originally "pelican" (16c.). This name is perhaps from Arabic al-ghattas "sea eagle" [Barnhart]; or from Portuguese alcatruz "the bucket of a water wheel" [OED], from Arabic al-qadus "machine for drawing water, jar" (which is said to be from Greek kados "jar"). If the second, the name would be a reference to the pelican's pouch (compare Arabic saqqa "pelican," literally "water carrier").
The spelling was influenced by Latin albus "white." The name was extended by 17c. English sailors to a larger sea-bird (order Tubinares), which are not found in the North Atlantic. [In English the word also formerly was extended to the frigate-bird.]
These albatrosses follow ships for days without resting and were held in superstitious awe by sailors. The figurative sense of "burden" (1936) is from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798) about a sailor who shoots an albatross and then is forced to wear its corpse as an indication that he alone, not the crew, offended against the bird. The prison-island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay is named for pelicans that roosted there. In Dutch, stormvogel; in German Sturmvogel "storm-bird."
[length of cloth] Old English sciete (West Saxon), scete (Mercian) "length of cloth, covering, napkin, towel, shroud," according to Watkins from Proto-Germanic *skautjon-, with notions of "corner," from *skauta- "project" (source also of Old Norse skaut, Gothic skauts "seam, hem of a garment;" Dutch schoot; German Schoß "bosom, lap"), from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw." "A very abstract and uncertain semantic development" according to Boutkan (who rightly can't resist adding a German assessment of it, etwas hervorragendes).
It is attested by mid-13c. as "large square or rectangular piece of linen or cotton spread over a bed next to the sleeper." The sense of "oblong or square piece of paper," especially one suitable for writing or printing on, is recorded by c. 1500; that of "any broad, flat, relatively thin surface" (of metal, open water, etc.) is from 1590s. Of a continuous sweep of falling rain from 1690s. The meaning "a newspaper" is recorded by 1749.
Sheet lightning, caused by cloud reflection, is attested from 1794; sheet music is from 1857. Between the sheets "in bed" (usually with sexual overtones) is attested from 1590s (played upon in "Much Ado"); to be white as a sheet is from 1751. The first element in sheet-anchor (late 15c.), one used only in emergencies, appears to be a different word, of unknown origin, perhaps with some connection to shoot (v.) on the notion of being "shot out."
as a deprecatory term first recorded in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but a similar noun cotton-picker meaning "contemptible person" dates to around 1919, perhaps with racist overtones that have faded over the years. Before mechanization, cotton picking was the most difficult labor on a plantation.
I drove out to a number of the farms near Denison and found many very young white children working all day in the hot sun picking and dragging sacks of cotton. In one field the labor corps consisted of one woman and six children, one of them 5 years, one 6 years, one 7 years, one 9 years, and two about 11. The father was plowing. The 5 and 6 year olds worked all day as did the rest. The 7-year-old said he picked 50 pounds a day and the 9 year old 75 pounds. (A good picker averages several hundred a day.) School begins late on account of the cotton picking, but the children nearly all prefer school to the picking. Picking hours are long, hot, and deadly monotonous. While the very young children seem to enjoy it, very soon their distaste for it grows into all-absorbing hatred for all work. ["Field Notes of Lewis W. Hine, Child-Labor Conditions in Texas," report to U.S. Congressional Commission on Industrial Relations, 1916]
"detached, kept apart, divided from the rest," c. 1600, from separate (v.) or from Latin separatus. Separate also was used as a past-participle adjective in Middle English, "cut off from the main body," also, of a spouse, "estranged." The meaning "individual, particular" is from 1670s, on the notion of "withdrawn or divided from something else," hence "peculiar to one but not others."
Separate but equal in reference to U.S. segregation policies on railroads, etc. is attested by 1890 (Henry W. Grady); it was used in 1870s of medical courses for women at universities. Separate development, official name of apartheid in South Africa, is from 1955. Related: Separately (1550s); separateness.
Frequently the colored coach is little better than a cattle car. Generally one half the smoking car is reserved for the colored car. Often only a cloth curtain or partition run half way up separates this so-called colored car from the smoke, obscene language, and foul air of the smokers' half of the car. All classes and conditions of colored humanity, from the most cultured and refined to the most degraded and filthy, without regard to sex, good breeding or ability to pay for better accommodation, are crowded into this separate, but equal (?) half car. [Rev. Norman B. Wood, "The White Side of a Black Subject," 1897]