Etymology
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thing (n.)

Old English þing "meeting, assembly, council, discussion," later "entity, being, matter" (subject of deliberation in an assembly), also "act, deed, event, material object, body, being, creature," from Proto-Germanic *thinga- "assembly" (source also of Old Frisian thing "assembly, council, suit, matter, thing," Middle Dutch dinc "court-day, suit, plea, concern, affair, thing," Dutch ding "thing," Old High German ding "public assembly for judgment and business, lawsuit," German Ding "affair, matter, thing," Old Norse þing "public assembly"). The Germanic word is perhaps literally "appointed time," from a PIE *tenk- (1), from root *ten- "stretch," perhaps on notion of "stretch of time for a meeting or assembly."

The sense "meeting, assembly" did not survive Old English. For sense evolution, compare French chose, Spanish cosa "thing," from Latin causa "judicial process, lawsuit, case;" Latin res "affair, thing," also "case at law, cause." Old sense is preserved in second element of hustings and in Icelandic Althing, the nation's general assembly.

Of persons, often pityingly, from late 13c. Used colloquially since c. 1600 to indicate things the speaker can't name at the moment, often with various meaningless suffixes (see thingamajig).

Things "personal possessions" is from c. 1300. The thing "what's stylish or fashionable" is recorded from 1762. Phrase do your thing "follow your particular predilection," though associated with hippie-speak of 1960s is attested from 1841.

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dull (adj.)

c. 1200, "stupid, slow of understanding, not quick in perception;" also, of points or edges, "blunt, not sharp;" apparently from Old English dol "dull-witted, foolish," or an unrecorded parallel word, or from Middle Low German dul "foolish, reckless," both from Proto-Germanic *dulaz (source also of Old Frisian dol "reckless," Middle Dutch dol, dul "stupid, foolish, crazy," Old Saxon dol, Old High German tol "foolish, dull," German toll "mad, wild," Gothic dwals "foolish").

This sometimes is conjectured to be from PIE *dhul-, from root *dheu- (1) "dust, vapor, smoke," which also produced words for "defective perception or wits, turbidity of the mind" (compare Greek tholos "mud dirt," Old Irish dall "blind").

Dull. Ineffective for the purpose aimed at, wanting in life. A dull edge is one that will not cut ; a dull understanding, does not readily apprehend ; a dull day is wanting in light, the element which constitutes its life ; dull of sight or of hearing is ineffective in respect of those faculties. [Wedgwood]

From late 12c. as a surname. Rare before mid-14c. Of color "not bright or clear," from early 15c.; of pain or other sensations, "not sharp or intense," from 1725. Sense of "not pleasing or enlivening, uninteresting, tedious" is from c. 1400. Related: Dullness.

dull. (8) Not exhilarating; not delightful; as to make dictionaries is dull work. [Johnson]
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cheap (adj.)

"low in price, that may be bought at small cost," c. 1500, ultimately from Old English noun ceap "traffic, a purchase," from ceapian (v.) "to trade, buy and sell," probably from early Germanic borrowings of Latin caupo "petty tradesman, huckster, peddler," cauponari "to haggle" (see chapman). Compare, from the same borrowing, German kaufen "to buy," Old Norse kaupa "to bargain, barter," Gothic kaupon "to traffic, trade."

The sense evolution is from the noun meaning "a barter, a purchase" to "a purchase as rated by the buyer," hence the adjectival meaning "inexpensive," the main modern sense, via Middle English phrases such as god chep "favorable bargain" (12c., a translation of French a bon marché).

The sense of "lightly esteemed, common" is from 1590s (compare similar evolution of Latin vilis). The meaning "low in price" was represented in Old English by undeor, literally "un-dear" (but deop ceap, literally "deep cheap," meant "high price").

The word also was used in Old English for "market" (as in ceapdæg "market day"), a sense surviving in place names Cheapside, East Cheap, etc. To do something on the cheap "with very little expense" is from 1859. Cheap shot originally was U.S. football jargon for a head-on tackle; extended sense "unfair hit" in politics, etc. is by 1970.

German billig "cheap" is from Middle Low German billik, originally "fair, just," with a sense evolution via billiger preis "fair price," etc.

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Whig 

British political party, 1657, in part perhaps a disparaging use of whigg "a country bumpkin" (1640s); but mainly a shortened form of Whiggamore (1649) "one of the adherents of the Presbyterian cause in western Scotland who marched on Edinburgh in 1648 to oppose Charles I." Perhaps originally "a horse drover," from dialectal verb whig "to urge forward" + mare. In 1689 the name was first used in reference to members of the British political party that opposed the Tories. American Revolution sense of "colonist who opposes Crown policies" is from 1768. Later it was applied to opponents of Andrew Jackson (as early as 1825), and taken as the name of a political party (1834) that merged into the Republican Party in 1854-56.

[I]n the spring of 1834 Jackson's opponents adopted the name Whig, traditional term for critics of executive usurpations. James Watson Webb, editor of the New York Courier and Enquirer, encouraged use of the name. [Henry] Clay gave it national currency in a speech on April 14, 1834, likening "the whigs of the present day" to those who had resisted George III, and by summer it was official. [Daniel Walker Howe, "What Hath God Wrought," 2007, p.390]

Whig historian is recorded from 1924. Whig history is "the tendency in many historians ... to emphasise certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present." [Herbert Butterfield, "The Whig Interpretation of History," 1931]

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contrary (adj.)

mid-14c., "opposite, opposed, at the opposite point or in the opposite direction; extremely unlike, most unlike," from Anglo-French contrarie, Old French contrarie, and directly from Latin contrarius "opposite, opposed; contrary, reverse," from contra "against" (see contra). Meaning "given to contradiction, perverse, intractable" is from late 14c.; sense of "adverse, unfavorable" is from late 14c. Related: Contrarily.

As a noun from late 13c., "one of a pair of characters, propositions, terms, etc., the most different possible within the same class." The phrase on the contrary "in precise or extreme opposition to what has been said" is attested from c. 1400 as in the contrary.

If we take the statement All men are mortal, its contrary is Not all men are mortal, its converse is All mortal beings are men, & its opposite is No men are mortal. The contrary, however, does not exclude the opposite, but includes it as its most extreme form. Thus This is white has only one opposite, This is black, but many contraries, as This is not white, This is coloured, This is dirty, This is black; & whether the last form is called the contrary, or more emphatically the opposite, is usually indifferent. But to apply the opposite to a mere contrary (e.g. to I did not hit him in relation to I hit him, which has no opposite), or to the converse (e.g. to He hit me in relation to I hit him, to which it is neither contrary nor opposite), is a looseness that may easily result in misunderstanding; the temptation to go wrong is intelligible when it is remembered that with certain types of sentence (A exceeds B) the converse & the opposite are identical (B exceeds A). [Fowler]
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sixty (adj., n.)

"one more than fifty-nine, twice thirty, six times ten; the number which is one more than fifty-nine; a symbol representing this number;" Middle English sixti, from Old English sixtig, from siex (see six) + -tig (see -ty (1)). Similar formation in Old Norse sextugr, sextögr, sextigir, Old Frisian sextich, Middle Dutch sestig, Dutch zestig, Old High German sehszug, German sechzig.

To do something like sixty "with great force or vigor" is by 1843, American English; the signification is unclear.

The phrase sixty-four dollar question "crucial question, most difficult question" is attested in general use from 1942, from the popular radio quiz show "Take It or Leave It" (debuted 1940), in which contestants answered questions of ascending difficulty and with ascending prizes for right answers, from $1 for the first to $64 for the seventh and last, and the option to take the winnings or take the next question. The show renamed itself "The $64 Question" in 1950. The amount of money offered advanced over time, and by 1955 it was "The $64,000 Question."

Baggy-browed Phil Baker took the $64 Question to Hollywood this week. As custodian of the renowned question—now so much a part of the national idiom that even $64 prose stylists avoid using it—and quizmaster of one of U.S. radio's most popular shows, Take It or Leave It (CBS, Sun., 10 p.m., E.W.T.), Phil Baker was ready to put both on celluloid. But there would be one slight variation: to suit Hollywood's philosophy, the $64 Question would become the $640 Question. [Time, March 6, 1944].
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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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civil war (n.)

"battles among fellow citizens or within a community," from civil in a sense of "occurring among fellow citizens" attested from late 14c. in batayle ciuile "civil battle," etc. The exact phrase civil war is attested from late 15c. (the Latin phrase was bella civicus). An Old English word for it was ingewinn. Ancient Greek had polemos epidemios.

Early use typically was in reference to ancient Rome. Later, in England, to the struggle between Parliament and Charles I (1641-1651); in U.S., to the War of Secession (1861-1865), an application often decried as wholly inaccurate but in use (among other names) in the North during the war and boosted by the popular "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War" series published 1884-87 in "Century Magazine."

"The war between the States," which a good many Southerners prefer, is both bookish and inexact. "Civil war" is an utter misnomer. It was used and is still used by courteous people, the same people who are careful to say "Federal" and "Confederate." "War of the rebellion," which begs the very question at issue, has become the official designation of the struggle, but has found no acceptance with the vanquished. To this day no Southerner uses it except by way of quotation .... "The war of secession" is still used a good deal in foreign books, but it has no popular hold. "The war," without any further qualification, served the turn of Thucydides and Aristophanes for the Peloponnesian war. It will serve ours, let it be hoped, for some time to come. [Basil L. Gildersleeve, "The Creed of the Old South," 1915]
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two-step (n.)

dance style, 1893, from two + step (n.); so called for the time signature of the music (as distinguished from the three-step waltz). But as the positions taken by the dancers involved direct contact, it was highly scandalous in its day and enormously popular.

A certain Division of an Auxiliary gave a dance not long since. I went and looked on. What did they dance? Two-step, two-step and two-step. How did they dance? When we used to waltz, we clasped arms easily, took a nice, respectable position, and danced in a poetry of motion. Now, girls, how do you two-step? In nine cases out of ten the dear girl reposes her head on the young man's shoulder, or else their faces press each other. He presses her to his breast as closely as possible, and actually carries her around. Disgraceful? I should say so. Do you wonder at the ministers preaching on dancing as a sin, when it looks like this to a woman like myself who believes in dancing and has danced all her life? Mothers, as you love your girls, forbid them to dance after this manner. [letter in the ladies' section of Locomotive Engineers' Monthly Journal, March 1898]
To the Two Step may be accredited, serious injury to the Waltz, awkward and immodest positions assumed in round dancing, also as being a prominent factor in overcrowding the profession and causing a general depression in the business of the legitimate Master of Dancing. [The Director, March 1898]
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's 

suffix forming the genitive or possessive singular case of most Modern English nouns; its use gradually was extended in Middle English from Old English -es, the most common genitive inflection of masculine and neuter nouns (such as dæg "day," genitive dæges "day's"). The "-es" pronunciation is retained after a sibilant.

Old English also had genitives in -e, -re, -an, as well as "mutation-genitives" (boc "book," plural bec), and the -es form never was used in plural (where -a, -ra, -na prevailed), thus avoiding the verbal ambiguity of words like kings'.

In Middle English, both the possessive singular and the common plural forms were regularly spelled es, and when the e was dropped in pronunciation and from the written word, the habit grew up of writing an apostrophe in place of the lost e in the possessive singular to distinguish it from the plural. Later the apostrophe, which had come to be looked upon as the sign of the possessive, was carried over into the plural, but was written after the s to differentiate that form from the possessive singular. By a process of popular interpretation, the 's was supposed to be a contraction for his, and in some cases the his was actually "restored." [Samuel C. Earle, et al, "Sentences and their Elements," New York: Macmillan, 1911]

As a suffix forming some adverbs, it represents the genitive singular ending of Old English masculine and neuter nouns and some adjectives.

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