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self indulgence
neck of the woods
The Origin Of Words, Tutti Frutti Hot Patootie
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The Origin of Words, Tutti Frutti Hot Patootie

English is a fascinating language because it borrows so much from the Germanic and the Romance languages. Also, many of the original root derivations of English words come from the Greek, Sanskrit, and Arabic.

We Americans have contributed a bundle of colorful expressions in the form of American slang and idioms. Purists would take issue with slang, but it does become part of every language, albeit characteristic of each nationality.

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and their evolution.

The meaning of words changes through years of usage. And words follow fashion, in that certain expressions and phrases can be identified with speech during certain periods of history.

Do you like movies from the thirties and forties? Notice how the people express themselves. They use the word “swell”…he’s a swell fellow. I think you’re “swell.”

Common words, words we use as part of our every day speech, have changed, or will eventually change in meaning.

The original meaning of “awful” was deserving of awe. The original meaning of “cute” was bow-legged. Did you know that “girl” meant a young person of either gender? “Guess” meant take aim. “Luxury” meant sinful self indulgence. “Notorious” meant famous. “Neck” meant parcel of land (neck of the woods). “Tell” meant to count (bank teller).

A word I use all the time, “silly”, meant blessed or happy in the 11th century. It eventually changed to mean foolish or stupid, but only after a harmless, innocent, and feeble minded incarnation.

A good example of words derived from ancient languages is the word for orange.

Did you know that “orange”, the name of the fruit was originally naranj (from Sanskrit)? Sanskrit was spoken in ancient India. The Indians traded with Arabs, and the word evolved into the Arabic “naranjah”. When Spain was ruled by North African Arabs, the word took on the Spanish influence and became “naranja”. They dropped the “h”.

By the time the word was given to the English, the name of the fruit became a naranj. Eventually the “j” was dropped, then the “n” was dropped, and the “a” was changed to “o”, and we have the word orange.

Where did “patootie” come from? It appeared in America in 1921, probably as a corruption of sweet potato. It was a slang word for sweetheart or pretty girl.

Cutie patootie is probably vulgar. A horse’s patoot is his rump. So there is an obvious “butt” correlation. To wit, “big pain in the patootie” (PIA). However, in 1948, the phrase “hot patootie”, was meant to be a compliment. It meant pretty girl. Another phrase was hot patatie. Today, we say hot potato. Remember the song from Rocky Horror Picture Show “Hot-Patootie-Bless My Soul”?

“Bully” had a positive connotation. It’s from 1530 and was a term of endearment for either gender. In the 17th century, it meant a fine fellow. Then it changed in meaning to a harasser of the weak. In American slang of 1864, it meant “bully for you”, so it reverted back to a positive meaning.

But today, a bully is definitely an oppressor.

I imagine every language has ambiguities.

It would be a fun exercise to research how language has changed in the past 25 years. Does language change like the shape of a garment? I think it does.


Street Talk

Mike Bond  

That's the terrible thought, isn't it? All this texting has a language of its own. Kids simply aren't taught even the rudiments of the English language these days, are they? Every good wish, Mike

Reply
  about 9 years ago
  

We're inventing a new language with texting and street dancers have invented a new form of dance. It's shocking how little our kids know about words and historical events. I know someone with a master's degree who doesn't know how to light a match.

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Interesting article, William Shakespeare had fun with words, the younger generation are finding it more and more difficult to understand what he was writing about. Does that mean our articles will be void in a few hundred years as no-one will understand them. LOL

Reply
  about 9 years ago
  

Many people have a hard time with Shakespeare until they get into the rhythm of it. Our kids today have a hard time with good contemporary English. In a few hundred years, they'll still understand our language, but it'll look dated for sure.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
Mike Bond  

Thanks, Kim. Yes, I must buy two or three of his books. I believe they're brilliant. Every good wish, Mike

Reply
  about 9 years ago

I too am interested in origins of language. Two of Bill bryson's books spring to mind here Joan: "Mother Tongue" and "Made in America" which you may well find fascinating.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
  

I'll add them to my reading list. Thanks Kim.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
  

Helps to understand the meaning better when you know where the words came from. Thanks for your comment Patty.

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Love this sort of thing, Joan. I always look up the derivation of words when I'm using the dictionary.

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Really amusing article Joan. I enjoyed it very much. And here is a piece of information. In greek we have kept the word neranji with an i at the end. It means bitter orange. The tree is named neranja.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
  

Fascinating Maria. It stayed closer to its root form. Thanks for that.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
AJ  

The origins of slang have always intrigued me, and this article fit the bill - I loved it! Fun and educational, what could be better? Thanks, Joan I truly enjoyed this one.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
  

I'm glad it interests you AJ. Me too. More to follow. Thanks for your comment.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
Mike Bond  

I'm afraid I'm not a member, Joan. Is it possible to join for free for little while? Every good wish, Mike

Reply
  about 9 years ago
  

Yes Mike. They have a deal going on. You can join for FREE for 10 days. Try it out. And you'll be able to write a private message. SA doesn't allow links in the comments.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
Mike Bond  

What a super article, Joan. My wife is a member of a pen friends club, and this chap sent her an amazing list of words and phrases and their origins. If you're interested, I'd be delighted to forward them on to you, but I don't know how? Would you let me have your E-mail address? I know it's cheeky to ask, but mine is If you're interested, just drop me a line to that address. Very well done. Wonderful article. Oops, I'm not allowed to give you my E-mail, I'm afraid. Sorry, Every good wish, Mike

Reply
  about 9 years ago
  

Mike, if you are a member of WA, you can send a private message. I'm jatdebeaune.

Reply
  about 9 years ago

It's a pity we can't put links in comments and I for one don't see the logic in this rule. Insecurity or something, perhaps? A daft question now, Joan. I'm intrigued by "jatdebeaune", what, may I ask, does it mean?

  
  about 9 years ago
  

Hi Kim, It's my initials plus a part of France that I love and where I have family ties.

  
  about 9 years ago
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