"one who finds cause for gladness in the most difficult situations," 1921, a reference to Pollyanna Whittier, child heroine of U.S. novelist Eleanor Hodgman Porter's "Pollyanna" (1913) and "Pollyanna Grows Up" (1915), who was noted for keeping her chin up and finding cause for happiness during disasters.
also muckraker, c. 1600, "one who rakes muck" (earliest use is in a figurative sense: "a miser"), from muck-rake "rake for scraping muck or filth" (mid-14c.), from muck (n.) + rake (n.). The figurative meaning "one who inquires into and publishes scandal and allegations of corruption among political and business leaders" was popularized 1906 in speech by President Theodore Roosevelt, in reference to the "man ... with a Muckrake in his hand" in Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" (1684) who seeks worldly gain by raking filth.
The men with the muck-rakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck. [T. Roosevelt, quoted in "Cincinnati Enquirer," April 15, 1906.]
Muck-rake (n.) in sense "person who hunts scandal" is attested from 1872. To muck-rake (v.) in the literal sense is from 1879; figuratively from 1910. Related: Muck-raking.
late 13c., "affected with periodic insanity dependent on the changes of the moon," from Old French lunatique "insane," or directly from Late Latin lunaticus "moon-struck," from Latin luna "moon" (see luna).
Compare Old English monseoc "lunatic," literally "moon-sick;" Middle High German lune "humor, temper, mood, whim, fancy" (German Laune), from Latin luna. Compare also New Testament Greek selēniazomai "be epileptic," from selēnē "moon." Lunatic fringe (1913) apparently was coined by U.S. politician Theodore Roosevelt.
Then, among the wise and high-minded people who in self-respecting and genuine fashion strive earnestly for peace, there are foolish fanatics always to be found in such a movement and always discrediting it — the men who form the lunatic fringe in all reform movements. [Theodore Roosevelt, autobiography, 1913].
Earlier it was a term for a type of hairstyle worn over the forehead (1877). Lunatic soup (1918) was slang for "alcoholic drink" or in reference to drinking several different alcoholic drinks together.
early 15c., "slender, flexible rod for exploring the conditions of wounds or other cavities in the body," also "a medical examination," from Medieval Latin proba "examination," in Late Latin "a test, proof," from Latin probare "show, demonstrate; test, inspect; judge by trial" (see prove).
Meaning "act of probing" is 1890, from the verb; figurative sense of "penetrating investigation" is from 1903, probably extended from the verb in this sense. Meaning "small, unmanned exploratory craft" is attested from 1953.
"Probe to the bottom," says President Roosevelt of the postal steals. Yes—"probe to the bottom," but don't overlook the top. What is needed quite as much as a probe—in fact, for the proper use of the probe—is a postmaster-general in the place of Payne, the mere partisan and convention fixer. [Chattanooga Daily Times, June 3, 1903]
"effeminate man, male homosexual who takes the passive role," 1924, from female name Nancy (q.v.), which was in use as an adjective meaning "effeminate" (applied to men) by 1904 in prison slang, a shortening of earlier Miss Nancy, a derogatory term for a finicky, effeminate man which is attested by 1824; Nancy boy "effeminate male homosexual" is attested by 1939.
Nancy, Miss, an opprobrious epithet for an exceedingly effeminate, over-nice young man. The original Miss Nancy, however, was a Mrs. Anna Oldfield, a celebrated actress, who died in 1730 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. She was extremely vain and nice about her dress, and as she lay in state, attended by two noblemen, she was attired, as she had directed shortly before her death, in "a very fine Brussels lace head-dress, a Holland shift with a tucker and double ruffles of the same lace, a pair of new kid gloves," etc., a circumstance alluded to by Pope .... [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," 1892]
Walsh's proposed origin might not be exact. Related: Nancified.
"the Roman god Mercury," herald and ambassador of his father, Jupiter, mid-12c., Mercurie, from Latin Mercurius "Mercury," originally a god of tradesmen and thieves, from merx "merchandise" (see market (n.)); or perhaps [Klein, Tucker] from Etruscan and influenced by merx. De Vaan thinks it possible the whole stem *merk- was borrowed and the god-name with it.
Mercury later was identified with Greek Hermes and still later with Germanic Woden. From his role as a messenger and conveyor of information, since mid-17c. Mercury has been a common name for a newspaper.
The planet closest to the sun was so called in classical Latin (c. 1300 in English). A hypothetical inhabitant of the planet was a Mercurean (1855) or a Mercurian (1755). For the metallic element, see mercury.
In U.S. numismatics, the Mercury-head dime (so called by 1941) was in circulation from 1916; properly it is the female head of Liberty, in her characteristic cap, here winged to symbolize freedom of thought. But the resemblance to Mercury was noted in coin circles at once, and the coin design sometimes was popularly mistaken as the head of Mercury, Roman god of making money and thieving, in his winged hat. It was so-called in 1933 in newspaper articles calling attention to the fasces on the reverse. The coin is more correctly the Winged Liberty-head dime (simple Liberty-head dime being a designation of the previous design). The design was replaced in 1946, which made it necessary for it to have an agreed-upon specifying name.
There's the four-year-old who counted out 20 cents with the remark: "A boy dime and a girl dime."
Translated, this means a Roosevelt dime and one classified by coin books as the "new Mercury head" dime.
[Dothan Eagle, June 25, 1951]