Etymology
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boondoggle (n.)

"wasteful expenditure," especially by the government under guise of public good, April 1935, American English; earlier it was a name for a kind of braided leather lanyard made by Boy Scouts and worn by them around the neck or hat. In this sense it is attested from 1930, and according to contemporary accounts the thing and the word were invented around 1928 by the Order of the Arrow of Scouts in Rochester, N.Y. The name might be arbitrary; once it became a vogue word, some newspapers claimed it had been a pioneer word for "gadget," but evidence for that is wanting.

The Prince of Wales was given one by the Rochester Scouts at the Jamboree in the summer of 1929, and wore it, and the boondoggle first came to public attention. In early April 1935, a dispute erupted in New York City over wastefulness in New Deal white-collar relief work programs, including one where men made boondoggles all day. Headline writers picked up the word, and it became at once a contemptuous noun or adjective for make-work projects for the unemployed.

What is all this boondoggling anyhow? If we don't know, it isn't because we haven't been trying to find out. First used by a witness in a Federal relief investigation, the word has swept the country. [Frances Shattuck Nyberg, "Getting Around" column, Baltimore Evening Sun, May 10, 1935]
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natural (adj.)

c. 1300, naturel, "of one's inborn character; hereditary, innate, by birth or as if by birth;" early 14c. "of the world of nature (especially as opposed to man)," from Old French naturel "of nature, conforming to nature; by birth," and directly from Latin naturalis "by birth, according to nature," from natura "nature" (see nature).

Of events, features, etc., "existing in nature as a result of natural forces" (that is, not caused by accident, human agency, or divine intervention), late 14c. From late 14c. of properties, traits, qualities, "proper, suitable, appropriate to character or constitution;"  from late 15c. as "native, native-born." Also late 15c. as "not miraculous, in conformity with nature," hence "easy, free from affectation" (c. 1600). Of objects or substances, "not artificially cultivated or created, existing in nature" c. 1400. As a euphemism for "illegitimate, bastard" (of children), it is recorded from c. 1400, on the notion of blood kinship (but not legal status).

Natural science, that pertaining to physical nature, is from late 14c.;  natural history meaning more or less the same thing is from 1560s (see history).  Natural law "the expression of right reason or the dictate of religion inhering in nature and man and having ethically binding force as a rule of civil conduct" is from late 14c. Natural order "apparent order in nature" is from 1690s. Natural childbirth is attested by 1898. Natural life, usually in reference to the duration of life, is from mid-15c.; natural death, one without violence or accident, is from mid-15c. To die of natural causes is from 1570s.

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letter (n.1)

c. 1200, "graphic symbol, alphabetic sign, written character conveying information about sound in speech," from Old French letre "character, letter; missive, note," in plural, "literature, writing, learning" (10c., Modern French lettre), from Latin littera (also litera) "letter of the alphabet," also "an epistle, writing, document; literature, great books; science, learning;" a word of uncertain origin.

According to Watkins, perhaps via Etruscan from Greek diphthera "tablet" (with change of d- to l- as in lachrymose), from a hypothetical root *deph- "to stamp." In this sense it replaced Old English bocstæf, literally "book staff" (compare German Buchstabe "letter, character," from Old High German buohstab, from Proto-Germanic *bok-staba-m).

Latin littera also meant "a writing, document, record," and in plural litteræ "a letter, epistle, missive communication in writing," a sense passed through French and attested in English letter since early 13c. (replacing Old English ærendgewrit "written message," literally "errand-writing"). The Latin plural also meant "literature, books," and figuratively "learning, liberal education, schooling" (see letters).

The custom of giving the school letter as an achievement award in sports, attested by 1908, is said to have originated with University of Chicago football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. Earlier in reference to colleges it meant "university degree or honor that adds initials to a name" (1888). Expression to the letter "precisely" is from 1520s (earlier after the letter, mid-14c.). Letter-quality (adj.) "suitable for (business) letters" is from 1977. For letters patent (with French word order) see patent (n.).

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secular (adj.)
Origin and meaning of secular

c. 1300, seculer, in reference to clergy, "living in the world, not belonging to a religious order," also generally, "belonging to the state" (as opposed to the Church), from Old French seculer, seculare (Modern French séculier) and directly from Late Latin saecularis "worldly, secular, pertaining to a generation or age," in classical Latin "of or belonging to an age, occurring once in an age," from saeculum "age, span of time, lifetime, generation, breed."

This is from Proto-Italic *sai-tlo-, which, according to Watkins, is PIE instrumental element *-tlo- + *sai- "to bind, tie" (see sinew), extended metaphorically to successive human generations as links in the chain of life. De Vaan also connects it with "bind" words and lists as a cognate Welsh hoedl "lifespan, age." An older theory connected it to words for "seed," from PIE root *se- "to sow" (see sow (v.), and compare Gothic mana-seþs "mankind, world," literally "seed of men").

The ancient Roman ludi saeculares was a three-day, day-and-night celebration coming once in an "age" (120 years).  Ecclesiastical writers in Latin used it as those in Greek did aiōn "of this world" (see cosmos). It is the source of French siècle "century." The meaning "of or belonging to an age or a long period," especially occurring once in a century, was in English from 1590s.

From mid-14c. in the general sense of "of or belonging to the world, concerned in earthly more than in spiritual, life;" also of literature, music, etc., "not overtly religious." In English, in reference to humanism and the exclusion of belief in God from matters of ethics and morality, from 1850s. Related: Secularly.

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shoo-fly (interj.)

admonition to a pest, by 1866 (in political journalism), from shoo (v.) + fly (n.). Popularized by a Dan Bryant minstrel song ("Shoo fly — don't bother me") that appeared in print by 1868 and was enormously popular from the next year, which launched it as a catch-phrase that, according to H.L. Mencken, "afflicted the American people for at least two years" and made an appearance in the Congressional Record.

[A]n epidemic called the "Shoo fly," that has raged in New York and other eastern cities for some time, has at length broken out there [Cincinnati] with great intensity. Young and old have got it. Babies lisp it, and old men are heard to pipe it forth. The child, when threatened with chastisement by its mother, modifies the parental wrath, and sometimes escapes the impending rod by waving its infantile hand and singing out:"Shoo-fly, don't bodder me!"
[Knoxville, Tenn., Daily Press and Herald, Jan. 28, 1870]

 The phrase also was used in various technical senses. The Pennsylvania Dutch delicacy shoo-fly pie is attested by 1908 in a recipe in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Its name is generally taken to be an allusion to the fact that it is so attractive to flies that they have to be constantly shooed away from it, but the fact that it originated as a Pennsylvania-Dutch specialty suggests the possibility that shoofly is an alteration of an unidentified German word. [Ayto, "Diner's Dictionary"]

Beam's "Pennsylvania German Dictionary" [Lancaster, 1985] gives der Melassichriwwelboi as the translation of "shoofly pie."

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book (n.)
Origin and meaning of book

Middle English bok, from Old English boc "book, writing, written document," generally referred (despite phonetic difficulties) to Proto-Germanic *bōk(ō)-, from *bokiz "beech" (source also of German Buch "book" Buche "beech;" see beech), the notion being of beechwood tablets on which runes were inscribed; but it may be from the tree itself (people still carve initials in them).

Latin and Sanskrit also have words for "writing" that are based on tree names ("birch" and "ash," respectively). And compare French livre "book," from Latin librum, originally "the inner bark of trees" (see library).

The sense gradually narrowed by early Middle English to "a written work covering many pages fastened together and bound," also "a literary composition" in any form, of however many volumes. Later also "bound pages," whether written on or not. In 19c. it also could mean "a magazine;" in 20c., a telephone directory.

The use of books or written charters was introduced in Anglo-Saxon times by the ecclesiastics, as affording more permanent and satisfactory evidence of a grant or conveyance of land than the symbolical or actual delivery of possession before witnesses, which was the method then in vogue. [Century Dictionary] 

From c. 1200 as "a main subdivision of a larger work." The meaning "libretto of an opera" is from 1768. A betting book "record of bets made" is from 1812. The meaning "sum of criminal charges" is from 1926, hence slang phrase throw the book at (1932). Book of Life "the roll of those chosen for eternal life" is from mid-14c. Book of the month is from 1926. To do something by the book "according to the rules" is from 1590s.

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salt (n.)

Old English sealt "salt, sodium chloride, abundant substance essential to life, used as a condiment and meat preservative," from Proto-Germanic *saltom (source also of Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian, Gothic salt, Dutch zout, German Salz), from PIE root *sal- "salt."

Applied from early 14c. to various substances resembling common salt. Modern chemistry sense "compound of an acid radical with a base radical" is from 1790; as an ultimate element in alchemy from 1580s. Meaning "experienced sailor" is attested by 1840 (Dana), probably a reference to the salinity of the sea. By 1570s as "that which gives piquancy to discourse or writing or liveliness to a person's character."

Salt long was regarded as having power to repel spiritual and magical evil. Many metaphoric uses reflect that this was once a rare and important resource, such as worth one's salt "efficient, capable" (1830), salt of the earth "persons of worthiness" (Old English, after Matthew v.13). Belief that spilling salt brings bad luck is attested from 16c. To be above (or below) the salt (1590s) refers to customs of seating at a long table according to rank or honor, and placing a large salt-cellar in the middle of the dining table.

Salt-shaker is from 1882. Salt-and-pepper (adj.) "of dark and light color" is by 1915 (pepper-and-salt, 1774, was an old name for a kind of cloth made from dark and light colored wools woven together). To take something with a grain of salt "accept with a certain amount of reserve" is from 1640s, from Modern Latin cum grano salis. The notion is perhaps "modification," hence "allowance, abatement, reserve."

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butterfly (n.)

common name of any lepidopterous insect active in daylight, Old English buttorfleoge, evidently butter (n.) + fly (n.), but the name is of obscure signification. Perhaps based on the old notion that the insects (or, according to Grimm, witches disguised as butterflies) consume butter or milk that is left uncovered. Or, less creatively, simply because the pale yellow color of many species' wings suggests the color of butter. Another theory connects it to the color of the insect's excrement, based on Dutch cognate boterschijte. Also see papillon.

Applied to persons from c. 1600, originally in reference to vain and gaudy attire; by 1806 in reference to transformation from early lowly state; in reference to flitting tendencies by 1873. The swimming stroke so called from 1935. As a type of mechanical nut, 1869. Butterflies "light stomach spasms caused by anxiety" is from 1908. Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? is from Pope.

The butterfly effect is a deceptively simple insight extracted from a complex modern field. As a low-profile assistant professor in MIT's department of meteorology in 1961, [Edward] Lorenz created an early computer program to simulate weather. One day he changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions, from .506127 to .506. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" [Peter Dizikes, "The Meaning of the Butterfly," The Boston Globe, June 8, 2008]

A truth known for ages to poets and philosophers (atomists) which modern science ponders as a possible fact.

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night (n.)

late Old English niht (West Saxon neaht, Anglian næht, neht) "the dark part of a day; the night as a unit of time; darkness," also "absence of spiritual illumination, moral darkness, ignorance," from Proto-Germanic *nahts (source also of Old Saxon and Old High German naht, Old Frisian and Dutch nacht, German Nacht, Old Norse natt, Gothic nahts).

The Germanic words are from PIE *nekwt- "night" (source also of Greek nyx "a night," Latin nox, Old Irish nochd, Sanskrit naktam "at night," Lithuanian naktis "night," Old Church Slavonic nosti, Russian noch', Welsh henoid "tonight"), according to Watkins, probably from a verbal root *neg- "to be dark, be night." For spelling with -gh- see fight.  The vowel indicates that the modern English word derives from oblique cases (genitive nihte, dative niht).

The fact that the Aryans have a common name for night, but not for day (q.v.), is due to the fact that they reckoned by nights. [Weekley]

Thus in Old English combinations night was "the night before (a certain day or feast day);" compare German Weihnachten "Christmas," literally "holy night." In early times, the day was held to begin at sunset, so Old English monanniht "Monday night" was the night before Monday, or what we would call Sunday night; so saeterniht "Friday night." The Greeks, by contrast, counted their days by mornings.

To work nights preserves the Old English genitive of time. Night soil "excrement" (1770) is so called because it was removed (from cesspools, etc.) after dark. Night train is attested from 1838; night-school from 1520s; night-life "habitual nocturnal carousing" is attested from 1852.

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