Etymology
Advertisement
cracker (n.2)

Southern U.S. derogatory term for "poor, white trash" (1766), probably an agent noun from crack (v.) in the sense "to boast" (as in not what it's cracked up to be). Cracker "a boaster, a braggart" is attested from c. 1500; also see crack (n.). Compare Latin crepare "to rattle, crack, creak," with a secondary figurative sense of "boast of, prattle, make ado about."

I should explain to your Lordship what is meant by crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas and Georgia, who often change their places of abode. [letter from colonial officer Gavin Cochrane to the Earl of Dartmouth, June 27, 1766]

But DARE compares corn-cracker "Kentuckian," also "poor, low-class white farmer of Georgia and North Carolina" (1835, U.S. Midwest colloquial).

The word was used especially of Georgians by 1808, though often extended to residents of northern Florida. Another name in mid-19c. use was sand-hiller "poor white in Georgia or South Carolina."

Not very essentially different is the condition of a class of people living in the pine-barrens nearest the coast [of South Carolina], as described to me by a rice-planter. They seldom have any meat, he said, except they steal hogs, which belong to the planters, or their negroes, and their chief diet is rice and milk. "They are small, gaunt, and cadaverous, and their skin is just the color of the sand-hills they live on. They are quite incapable of applying themselves steadily to any labor, and their habits are very much like those of the old Indians." [Frederick Law Olmsted, "A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States," 1856]
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
punch (v.)

"to thrust, push; jostle;" also, "to prod, drive (cattle, etc.) by poking and prodding," late 14c., from Old French ponchonner "to punch, prick, stamp," from ponchon "pointed tool, piercing weapon" (see punch (n.1)).

Meaning "to pierce, make a hole or holes in with a punch, emboss with a tool" is from early 15c.; meaning "to stab, puncture" is from mid-15c. Related: Punched; punching.

Specialized sense "to hit with the fist, give a blow, beat with blows of the fist" is recorded by 1520s. Compare Latin pugnare "to fight with the fists," from a root meaning "to pierce, sting." In English this sense-shift evolved also probably by influence of punish: Punch or punsch for punish is found in documents from 14c.-15c.:

punchyth me, Lorde, and spare my blyssyd wyff Anne. [Coventry Mystery Plays, late 15c.]

To punch (someone) out "beat (someone) up" is from 1971. To punch a ticket, etc., "make a hole in" to indicate use of it is from mid-15c. To punch the clock "record one's arrival at or departure from the workplace using an automated timing device" is from 1900.

There are time recorders for checking the minute of arrival and departure of each office employee—machines that operate with clock attachment and which in response to worker's punch print on tabular sheets of paper his promptnesses and delinquencies. [Richard Lord, "Running an Office by Machinery," in System, September 1909]
Perhaps you are some great big chief, who has a lot to say.
Who lords it o'er the common herd who chance to come your way;
Well, here is where your arrogance gets a dreadful shock,
When you march up, like a private, salute, and PUNCH THE CLOCK.
[from "Punch the Clock," by "The Skipper," The Commercial Telegraphers' Journal, May 1912]
Related entries & more 
coal (n.)

Old English col "charcoal; live coal, piece of wood or other combustible substance, either burning or having been burned," from Proto-Germanic *kula(n) (source also of Old Frisian kole, Middle Dutch cole, Dutch kool, Old High German chol, German Kohle, Old Norse kol), from PIE root *g(e)u-lo- "live coal" (source also of Irish gual "coal").

Meaning "solid mineral consisting of fossilized carbon, combustible and used as fuel," is from mid-13c. The thing itself is mentioned 370 B.C.E. by Theophrastus in his treatise "On Stones" under the name lithos anthrakos (see anthrax). Traditionally good luck, coal was given as a New Year's gift in England, said to guarantee a warm hearth for the coming year.

The phrase drag (or rake) over the coals was a reference to the treatment meted out to heretics by Christians. To carry coals "do dirty work," also "submit to insult" is from 1520s.

To carry coals to Newcastle "add to that of which there is already an abundance, do unnecessary labor " (c. 1600) is a local variant on an ancient class of expression: Latin had in litus harenas fundere "pour sand on the beach," in silvam ligna ferre "carry wood to the woods;" Greek glauk eis Athenas "owls to Athens." Newcastle is in the midst of a great coal-producing region. The ancient view is not necessarily the modern one. A historian, noting that the medieval English exported manufactured cloth to the Low Countries, where weaving was a major industry, writes, "it is always sensible to send coals to Newcastle or owls to Athens if you can be sure of underselling the locals" [George D. Painter, "William Caxton," 1976]

Related entries & more 
tank (n.)

1610s, "pool or lake for irrigation or drinking water," a word originally brought by the Portuguese from India, from a Hindi source, such as Gujarati tankh "cistern, underground reservoir for water," Marathi tanken, or tanka "reservoir of water, tank." Perhaps ultimately from Sanskrit tadaga-m "pond, lake pool," and reinforced in later sense of "large artificial container for liquid" (1680s) by Portuguese tanque "reservoir," from estancar "hold back a current of water," from Vulgar Latin *stanticare (see stanch). But other sources say the Portuguese word is the source of the Indian ones. 

Meaning "fuel container" is recorded from 1902. Slang meaning "detention cell" is from 1912. Railroad tank-car is from 1874.

In military use, "armored, gun-mounted vehicle moving on continuous articulated tracks," the word originated late 1915. In "Tanks in the Great War" [1920], Brevet Col. J.F.C. Fuller quotes a memorandum of the Committee of Imperial Defence dated Dec. 24, 1915, recommending the proposed "caterpillar machine-gun destroyer" machines be entrusted to an organization "which, for secrecy, shall be called the 'Tank Supply Committee,' ..." In a footnote, Fuller writes, "This is the first appearance of the word 'tank' in the history of the machine." He writes that "cistern" and "reservoir" also were put forth as possible cover names, "all of which were applicable to the steel-like structure of the machines in the early stages of manufacture. Because it was less clumsy and monosyllabic, the name 'tank' was decided on." They were first used in action at Pozieres ridge, on the Western Front, Sept. 15, 1916, and the name was quickly picked up by the soldiers. Tank-trap attested from 1920.

Related entries & more 
seven (adj., n.)

"1 more than six; the number which is one more than six; a symbol representing this number;" Old English seofon, from Proto-Germanic *sebun (source also of Old Saxon sibun, Old Norse sjau, Swedish sju, Danish syv, Old Frisian sowen, siugun, Middle Dutch seven, Dutch zeven, Old High German sibun, German sieben, Gothic sibun), from PIE *septm "seven" (source also of Sanskrit sapta, Avestan hapta, Hittite shipta, Greek hepta, Latin septem, Old Church Slavonic sedmi, Lithuanian septyni, Old Irish secht, Welsh saith).

Long regarded as a number of perfection (seven wonders; seven sleepers, the latter translating Latin septem dormientes; seven against Thebes, etc.), but that notion is late in Old English and in German a nasty, troublesome woman could be eine böse Sieben "an evil seven" (1662). Magical power or healing skill associated since 16c. with the seventh son ["The seuenth Male Chyld by iust order (neuer a Gyrle or Wench being borne betweene)," Thomas Lupton, "A Thousand Notable Things," 1579]. The typical number for "very great, strong," as in seven-league boots in the fairy story of Hop o'my Thumb.

The Seven Years' War (1756-63) is also the Third Silesian War.

The Seven Stars (Old English sibunsterri), usually refers to the Pleiades, though in 15c. and after this name occasionally was given to the Big Dipper (which also has seven stars), or the seven planets of classical astronomy. Popular as a tavern sign, it might also (with six in a circle, one in the center) be a Masonic symbol.

FOOL: ... The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.
LEAR: Because they are not eight?
FOOL: Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.
["King Lear," I.v.]
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
race (n.2)

[people of common descent] 1560s, "people descended from a common ancestor, class of persons allied by common ancestry," from French race, earlier razza "race, breed, lineage, family" (16c.), possibly from Italian razza, which is of unknown origin (cognate with Spanish raza, Portugueseraça). Etymologists say it has no connection with Latin radix "root," though they admit this might have influenced the "tribe, nation" sense, and race was a 15c. form of radix in Middle English (via Old French räiz, räis). Klein suggests the words derive from Arabic ra's "head, beginning, origin" (compare Hebrew rosh).

  

Original senses in English included "wines with characteristic flavor" (1520), "group of people with common occupation" (c. 1500), and "generation" (1540s). The meaning developed via the sense of "tribe, nation, or people regarded as of common stock" to "an ethnical stock, one of the great divisions of mankind having in common certain physical peculiarities" by 1774 (though as OED points out, even among anthropologists there never has been an accepted classification of these). In 19c. also "a group regarded as forming a distinctive ethnic stock" (German, Greeks, etc.).

Just being a Negro doesn't qualify you to understand the race situation any more than being sick makes you an expert on medicine. [Dick Gregory, 1964]

In mid-20c. U.S. music catalogues, it means "Negro." Old English þeode meant both "race, folk, nation" and "language;" as a verb, geþeodan meant "to unite, to join." Race-consciousness "social consciousness," whether in reference to the human race or one of the larger ethnic divisions, is attested by 1873; race-relations by 1897. Race theory "assertion that some racial groups are endowed with qualities deemed superior" is by 1894.

Related entries & more 
long (adj.)

Old English lang "having a great linear extent, that extends considerably from end to end; tall; lasting," from Proto-Germanic *langa- (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon lang, Old High German and German lang, Old Norse langr, Middle Dutch lanc, Dutch lang, Gothic laggs "long").

The Germanic words perhaps are from PIE *dlonghos- (source also of Latin longus "long, extended; further; of long duration; distant, remote," Old Persian darga-, Persian dirang, Sanskrit dirghah "long"), from root *del- (1) "long" (source also of Greek dolikhos "long," endelekhes "perpetual"). Latin longus (source of prolong, elongate, longitude, etc.) thus is probably cognate with, but not the source of, the Germanic words. The word illustrates the Old English tendency for short "a" to become short "o" before -n- (also retained in bond/band and West Midlands dialectal lond from land and hond from hand).

Also in Old English in reference to time, "drawn out in duration," with overtones of "serious." The old sense of "tall" now appears to be dialectal only, or obsolete. For long "during a long time" is from c. 1300. To be long on something, "have a lot" of it, is from 1900, American English slang. A long vowel (c. 1000) originally was pronounced for an extended time. Mathematical long division is from 1808. Sporting long ball is from 1744, originally in cricket. Long jump as a sporting event is attested from 1864. A long face, one drawn downward in expression of sadness or solemnity, is from 1786. Long in the tooth (1841 of persons) is from horses showing age by recession of gums (but not in this sense until 1870). Long knives, name Native Americans gave to white settlers (originally in Virginia/Kentucky) is from 1774, perhaps a reference to their swords. Long time no see, supposedly imitative of American Indian speech, is first recorded 1919 as Chinese English.

Related entries & more 
sensitive (adj.)

late 14c., sensitif, in reference to the body or its parts, "capable of receiving impressions from external objects, having the function of sensation;" also (c. 1400) in scholastic philosophy, "pertaining to the faculty of the soul that receives and analyzes sensory information;" from Old French sensitif "capable of feeling" (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin sensitivus "capable of sensation," from Latin sensus, past participle of sentire "feel, perceive" (see sense (n.)). Also in early Modern English sencitive.

By 1520s as "of, connected with, or affecting the senses." With reference to persons or mental feelings, "easily touched by emotion, readily wounded by unkindness" (but also sometimes "ready to take offense"), by 1816.

What is commonly called a 'sensitive' person is one whose sense-organs cannot go on responding as the stimulus increases in strength, but become fatigued. [James Sully, "Outlines of Psychology," 1884]

The purely physical sense, in reference to a living being, skin, etc., "having quick or intense response to sensation," is by 1808. Of devices, mechanisms, etc., "so delicately adjusted as to respond quickly to very slight changes of condition," by 1857. The Cold War meaning "involving national security" is attested by 1953. Related: Sensitively; sensitiveness.

The older meaning is preserved in sensitive plant (1630s, also in Shelley's poem), a legume which is "mechanically irritable in a higher degree than almost any other plant" [Century Dictionary]. 

Marijuana ... makes you sensitive. Courtesy has a great deal to do with being sensitive. Unfortunately marijuana makes you the kind of sensitive where you insist on everyone listening to the drum solo in Iron Butterfly's 'In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida' fifty or sixty times. [P.J. O'Rourke, "Modern Manners," 1983] 

As a noun, in mesmerism, "one who is sensitive to hypnotic influence," 1850; later "one in whom the sensitive facility is highly developed, an aesthete" (1891).

Related entries & more 
rip (v.)

"tear apart, cut open or off," c. 1400, rippen, "pull out sutures," probably from a North Sea Germanic language (compare Flemish rippen "strip off roughly," Frisian rippe "to tear, rip;" also Middle Dutch reppen, rippen "to rip") or else from a Scandinavian source (compare Swedish reppa, Danish rippe "to tear, rip"). Likely most or all of them are from a Proto-Germanic *rupjan- (from PIE root *reup-, *reub- "to snatch"). "Of somewhat obscure origin and history; it is not quite certain that all the senses really belong to the same word" [OED].

The meaning "to slash with a sharp instrument" is from 1570s. Intransitive sense of "be torn or split open" is by 1840. Related: Ripped; ripping. In old U.S. slang, "to utter strong language" (1772), often with out; hence "break forth with sudden violence." The meaning "to move with slashing force" (1798) is the sense in let her rip "allow something to go or continue unrestrained," an American English colloquial phrase attested by 1846.

At another time, when a charge was ordered one of the officers could not think of the word, and he shouted—'Let 'er rip!'—when the whole line burst out with a yell—'Let 'er rip!' and dashed in among the Mexicans, laughing and shouting this new battle cry. [from an account of Illinois volunteers in the Mexican-American War, in the Pensacola Gazette, March 29, 1851] 

  

In garments we rip along the line at which they were sewed ; we tear the texture of the cloth; we say, "It is not torn; it is only ripped." More broadly, rip, especially with up, stands for a cutting open or apart with a quick, deep strike: as, to rip up a body or a sack of meal. Rend implies great force or violence. [Century Dictionary]
Related entries & more 
poetry (n.)

late 14c., poetrie, "poetry, composition in verse; a poem; ancient literature; poetical works, fables, or tales," from Old French poetrie (13c.), and perhaps directly from Medieval Latin poetria (c. 650), from Latin poeta (see poet). In classical Latin, poetria meant "poetess."

Figurative use is from 1660s. Old English had metergeweorc "verse," metercræft "art of versification." Modern English lacks a true verb form in this group of words, though poeticize (1804), poetize (1580s, from French poétiser), and poetrize (c. 1600) have been tried. Poetry in motion (1826) perhaps is from poetry of motion (1813) "dance" (also poetry of the foot, 1660s). Poetry slam is by 1993.

... I decided not to tell lies in verse. Not to feign any emotion that I did not feel; not to pretend to believe in optimism or pessimism, or unreversible progress; not to say anything because it was popular, or generally accepted, or fashionable in intellectual circles, unless I myself believed it; and not to believe easily. [Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), forward to "Selected Poems"]
Poetry — meaning the aggregate of instances from which the idea of poetry is deduced by every new poet — has been increasingly enlarged for many centuries. The instances are numerous, varied and contradictory as instances of love; but just as 'love' is a word of powerful enough magic to make the true lover forget all its baser and falser, usages, so is 'poetry' for the true poet. [Robert Graves, "The White Goddess"]
And the relation of the forms of poetry to the requirements of actual song is so fixed, that the laws of the four great groups of metre which we now successively to examine—the trimetre, tetrametre, pentametre, and hexametre—all depend upon the physical power of utterance in the breath. [Ruskin, "Elements of English Prosody, for use in St. George's Schools," 1880]
Related entries & more 

Page 89