March 3, 2011

OMD! It's Word Derivation Day!

Today, three lovely word derivation mysteries will be solved. As usual, the text you read below comes from The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, by Robert Hendrickson.

Intestinal fortitude.


Artichoke Annie said...

I'm curious about "elbow grease" - can I entice you to add that one sometime?

writenow said...

It's not listed in my derivation book. Wikipedia merely states the obvious, but I like the second paragraph about it being a prank:

Elbow grease is an idiom for working hard at manual labour, as in "You need to use some elbow grease." It is a humorous reflection of the fact that some tasks can only be achieved by hard effort and human energy, contrasting with the idea that there should be some special oil, tool or chemical product to make the job easier.

It has also been used as a practical joke by a master tradesperson on apprentices, e.g. "Go fetch some elbow grease from him." Each tradesperson will say someone else has the elbow grease and send the unwitting apprentice on to another master tradesperson. The snipe hunt will continue until the apprentice gives up, catches on or runs out of people/places to search.

Artichoke Annie said...

that's pretty good. I thought it went back to the days of the Knights and their armor would freeze up and they had to get elbow grease to loosen things up.