Etymology
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symposium (n.)

1580s, "account of a gathering or party," from Latin symposium "drinking party, symposium," from Greek symposion "drinking party, convivial gathering of the educated" (related to sympotes "drinking companion"), from assimilated form of syn- "together" (see syn-) + posis "a drinking," from a stem of Aeolic ponen "to drink," from PIE root *po(i)- "to drink."

The symposium usually followed a dinner, for the Greeks did not drink at meals. Its enjoyment was heightened by intellectual or agreeable conversation, by the introduction of music or dancers, and by other amusements. [Century Dictionary]

The sense of "a meeting on some subject" is from 1784. Reflecting the Greek fondness for mixing wine and intellectual discussion, the modern sense is especially from the word being used as a title for one of Plato's dialogues. Greek plural is symposia, and the leader of one is a symposiarch (c. 1600 in English). Related: Symposiac (adj.); symposial.

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midget (n.)

as a type of tiny biting insect, 1839, American English, from midge, perhaps with diminutive suffix -et.

Dr. Webster is in error in saying the word "midge" is "not in use" at the present day. In the neighboring Green mountain districts, one or more most annoying species of Simulium that there abound, are daily designated in common conversation as the midges, or, as the name is often corrupted, the midgets. From Dr. Harris' treatise it appears that the same name is in popular use for the same insects in Maine. The term is limited in this country, we believe, exclusively to those minute insects, smaller than the musketoe, which suck the blood of other animals. ["Transactions of the New-York State Agricultural Society," vol. vi, Albany, 1847]

Transferred sense of "very small person" is attested by 1854. It is also noted mid-19c. as a pet form of Margaret.

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grouch (n.)

"ill-tempered person," 1896, earlier "state of irritable glumness" (1890, in expressions such as to have a grouch on), U.S. college student slang, of uncertain origin, possibly from grutching "complaint, grumbling" (see grutch).

The Grouch, on the other Hand, gave a correct Imitation of a Bear with a Sore Toe. His Conversation was largely made up of Grunts. He carried a Facial Expression that frightened little Children in Street Cars and took all the Starch out of sentimental Young Ladies. He seemed perpetually to carry the Hoof-Marks of a horrible Nightmare. [George Ade, "People You Know," 1902]

The verb is 1916, from the noun. Related: Grouched; grouching. Grouch bag "purse for carrying money secretly" (1908), probably so called for keeping the cash hidden from compatriots; it is the source of the nickname of U.S. comedian Julius "Groucho" Marx (1890-1977), who supposedly carried his money to poker games in one.

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square (adj.)

early 14c., "containing four equal sides and right angles," from square (n.), or from Old French esquarre, past participle of esquarrer. Meaning "honest, fair," is first attested 1560s; that of "straight, direct" is from 1804. Of meals, from 1868.

Sense of "old-fashioned" is 1944, U.S. jazz slang, said to be from shape of a conductor's hand gestures in a regular four-beat rhythm. Square-toes meant nearly the same thing late 18c.: "precise, formal, old-fashioned person," from the style of men's shoes worn early 18c. and then fallen from fashion. Squaresville is attested from 1956. Square dance attested by 1831; originally one in which the couples faced inward from four sides; later of country dances generally.

[T]he old square dance is an abortive attempt at conversation while engaged in walking certain mathematical figures over a limited area. [The Mask, March 1868]
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clever (adj.)

1580s, "handy, dexterous, having special manual ability," apparently from East Anglian dialectal cliver "expert at seizing," perhaps from East Frisian klüfer "skillful," or Norwegian dialectic klover "ready, skillful," and perhaps influenced by Old English clifer "claw, hand" (early usages seem to refer to dexterity). Or perhaps akin to Old Norse kleyfr "easy to split," from Proto-Germanic *klaubri‑ from PIE root *gleubh- "to tear apart, cleave." Extension to intellect is first recorded 1704.

This is a low word, scarcely ever used but in burlesque or conversation; and applied to any thing a man likes, without a settled meaning. [Johnson, 1755]

The meaning has narrowed since, but clever also often in old use and dialect meant "well-shaped, attractive-looking" and in late 18c. and 19c. American English sometimes "good-natured, agreeable." Related: Cleverly; cleverness.

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blue (adj.2)
"lewd, indecent" recorded from 1840 (in form blueness, in an essay of Carlyle's); the sense connection with the color name (see blue (adj.1)) is unclear, and is opposite to that in blue laws (q.v.). John Mactaggart's "Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia" (1824), containing odd words he had learned while growing up in Galloway and elsewhere in Scotland, has an entry for Thread o'Blue, "any little smutty touch in song-singing, chatting, or piece of writing." Farmer ["Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present," 1890] offers the theory that this meaning derives from the blue dress uniforms issued to harlots in houses of correction (from c. 1600), but he writes that the earlier slang authority John Camden Hotten "suggests it as coming from the French Bibliothèque Bleu, a series of books of very questionable character," and adds, from Hotten, that, "Books or conversation of an entirely opposite nature are said to be Brown or Quakerish, i.e., serious, grave, decent."
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lengthy (adj.)

"having length" (especially "immoderately long"), 1759, American English, from length + -y (2). Until c. 1840 always characterized in British English as an Americanism.

This word has been very common among us, both in writing and in the language of conversation; but it has been so much ridiculed by Americans as well as Englishmen, that in writing it is now generally avoided. Mr. Webster has admitted it into his dictionary; but as need hardly be remarked it is not in any of the English ones. It is applied by us, as Mr. Webster justly observes, chiefly to writings or discourses. Thus we say, a lengthy pamphlet, a lengthy sermon, &c. The English would say, a long or (in the more familiar style) a longish sermon. [John Pickering, "A Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases Which Have Been Supposed to be Peculiar to the United States of America," Boston, 1816]

Related: Lengthily; lengthiness.

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rhubarb (n.)

late 14c., rubarbe, medicinal root-stock of a plant native to China and Tibet, from Old French rubarbe and directly from Medieval Latin reubarbarbum, from Greek rha barbaron "foreign rhubarb," from rha "rhubarb," perhaps ultimately from a source akin to Persian rewend "rhubarb" (associated in Greek with Rha, ancient Scythian name of the River Volga) + barbaron, neuter of barbaros "foreign" (see barbarian).

It was long imported into Europe by way of Russia and became associated with that land. The European native species was so called by 1640s. The first vowel was altered in Medieval Latin by association with rheum. The restored -h- was occasional from Middle English but not established until late 18c.

The baseball slang meaning "loud squabble on the field" is from 1938, of unknown origin, said to have been first used by broadcaster Garry Schumacher. Perhaps it is connected with the use of rhubarb as a word repeated by stage actors to give the impression of hubbub or conversation (a stage effect attested from 1934).

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myth (n.)

1830, from French mythe (1818) and directly from Modern Latin mythus, from Greek mythos "speech, thought, word, discourse, conversation; story, saga, tale, myth, anything delivered by word of mouth," a word of unknown origin. Beekes finds it "quite possibly Pre-Greek."

Myths are "stories about divine beings, generally arranged in a coherent system; they are revered as true and sacred; they are endorsed by rulers and priests; and closely linked to religion. Once this link is broken, and the actors in the story are not regarded as gods but as human heroes, giants or fairies, it is no longer a myth but a folktale. Where the central actor is divine but the story is trivial ... the result is religious legend, not myth." [J. Simpson & S. Roud, "Dictionary of English Folklore," Oxford, 2000, p.254]

General sense of "untrue story, rumor, imaginary or fictitious object or individual" is from 1840.

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bat (n.1)

"a stick or staff used in beating, a war-club, staff used to strike the ball in certain games," c. 1200, from rare Old English batt "cudgel," a western England word at first, probably from Welsh or another Celtic source (compare Irish and Gaelic bat, bata "staff, cudgel"), later reinforced and influenced by Old French batte "pestle," from Late Latin battre "to beat;" all from PIE root *bhat- "to strike." As a kind of wooden paddle used to play cricket (later baseball), it is attested from 1706.

Middle English sense of "a lump, piece, chunk" (mid-14c.) was used of bread, clay, wool, and survives in brickbat and batting (n.1). Phrase right off the bat (1866), also hot from the bat (1870), probably represent a baseball metaphor, but cricket or some other use of a bat might as easily be the source--there is an early citation from Australia (in an article about slang): "Well, it is a vice you'd better get rid of then. Refined conversation is a mark of culture. Let me hear that kid use slang again, and I'll give it to him right off the bat. I'll wipe up the floor with him. I'll ---" ["The Australian Journal," November 1888].

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