As promised, notes on my newsletter. I am fascinated by etymology (the history of words and how they have changed). This week, as I was typing up my newsletter, I realized that I often have an odd turn of phrase (stop laughing!). So I decided to look up some of those phrases and give a quick history of how they came to their current meanings.
- Take to task To scold. This term, dating from the mid-1700s, at first meant either assigning or challenging someone to a task. I found references that its current meaning came about in the late 1800s.
- All the news that’s fit to print Originally coined by Adolph Ochs owner of the New York Times to set the the paper apart from more sensational competitors. This slogan is still printed on each addition. Many sources said that the slogan has been adapted to “All the News That’s fit to Click” but I was unable to find that anywhere on their online sites.
- There you are. The Cambridge Dictionary Online says that this is used when giving something to someone, usually after a request for the thing. While you might have requested my newsletter, you probably didn’t request everything in it. And yet the use of this phrase is exactly the way I would use it in speech.
- Brave new world From the dystopian novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, this phrase has come to mean either a future world or a current situation caused by something new. A recent development.
- Picking up steam Starting to be much more effective or successful. I was completely unable to find a reliable source for when this phrase appeared in language.
- Flash sale This is an internet phenomenon, originally started by the folks over at Woot.com and quickly picked up by other retailers. As an ongoing business model, it is a bit iffy, but as a way to offer our regulars a great price on inventory we want to move, we think it will be a big winner.
- By the way This literally means ‘by the side of the road’. It is used in The Comedy of Errors, (Act V, Scene i), with this meaning. Oxford English Dictionary cites Its figurative use of ‘as a side note’ as early as 1556. That said, there are also those who will argue that it is a religious reference – the way as God, so literally “by God.”
In the process of researching all this, I found several sites that I am sure I will now be visiting regularly – English Language & Usage Stack Exchange, Today I Found Out, and The Free Dictionary. All had fabulous articles and fun information (at least for a word junkie like me!)