Uncertain etymology
Posted: 07 October 2013 12:16 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  2435
Joined  2007-02-19

The discussion on “lush”, and its uncertain origin, reminded me that a few days ago, I was looking up the origin of the word “turmoil”, and learned that nobody seems to be quite sure about where that word comes from, either. I’m sure members of this forum are able to come up with other words whose etymology is shrouded in uncertainty, over which we could all puzzle and speculate together. With all due deference to OED (and to other lesser, but still significant authorities), I don’t see why they should always have the last word about such things. I think this forum has shown itself capable of generating quite a lot of word horsepower (and the occasional word horse-laugh). Any offerings?

Posted: 07 October 2013 03:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  2599
Joined  2007-01-30

I recall that jalopy came up on the board many moons ago (my goodness, eleven years ago, in fact.). I linked then to a couple of wild speculations but the origin remains as unknown now as it did then.

Blizzard is another unknown (acknowledgments to samclem for offering this in an old thread over at SDMB). Here’s OED:

A modern word, probably more or less onomatopoeic; suggestive words are blow , blast , blister , bluster : the French blesser to wound, has also been conjectured, but there is nothing to indicate a French origin. As applied to a ‘snow-squall,’ the word became general in the American newspapers during the severe winter of 1880–81; but according to the Milwaukee Republican 4 Mar. 1881, it had been so applied in the Northern Vindicator (Estherville, Iowa) between 1860 and 1870. It was apparently in colloquial use in the West much earlier; but whether Col. Crockett’s use of it in 1834 (sense 1) was figurative, taken from the stifling blast, or was the earlier sense, and subseq. transferred to the blast, is not determined.