Posts Tagged ‘Etymology’

Park, Parking, Parked

September 18, 2010

The Verb “Park”

One of the new and simple words that have come into our language in recent years is the word “parking.” If you heard anyone mention “parking” 25 years ago, you’d probably consult a dictionary, and then you wouldn’t find any such word, although you would find “park,” and that the word was derived from the Gaelic “paurka,” meaning a field.

The automobile created the verb “park,” and the field or vacant lot in which the machine is stored away is called a “parking place.”

The horse used to be “hitched,” but the automobile called for other treatment. The driver “parked” his car instead of hitching it, and the act was called “parking.”

Now the word has come into more general use. The wife accuses the husband out of work of “parking” too long by the stove. If the elevator boy is off the job for a moment he is suspected of being “parked” alongside the radio. If a fellow gets a good political job he is said to be “parked” at the city hall, and when a poor fellow’s “back it to the wall” at the civic center, his critics tell you that he is “parked” there.

Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) Sep 8, 1934

Both images can be found on the Wichita Eagle website in a photo series entitled Old Cars.

Proh Pudor!

June 30, 2010

Hotel Galvez - Galveston, TX (Image from

Galvezton vs. Galveston.

The following letter in reference to the origin of the name of our city will prove interesting to old citizens and those fond of etymology. Possibly some one else has something to relate on this subject:

Eds. News — It is generally conceded that our island was named after the Count de Galvez, who was Governor of Louisiana and Florida, and subsequently, Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico.) Etymologists were somewhat puzzled by the ending ton, which did not appear to be Spanish; but they disposed of the said vexatious ton, by pronouncing it a corruption of the word town, found in Charleston, Washington, etc.

The explanation, if handy, does not seem to be very plausible. Spainards were fond of sonorous names; the name “Nacogdoches,” long enough for our practical uses, they pronounced “La Mision de Nuestra Senor a del Pilar de los Nacogdoches;” the Brazos River was “El Rio de los Brazos de Dios,” etc.

It is, therefore, probable that to find a name for an island that had no town in it, they needed not to corrupt the little English word town.

Nestor Maxan, Esq., of Brownsville, has in his possession, and showed me, a Spanish law book, published in Madrid during the latter century, and dedicated to the Count of Galvez, then a boy five years old, and son of the former Viceroy, the godfather of our island. I found on the title page the escutcheon of the Galvez family, as follows, viz:

A ship under full sails, and on its side the word, “Galvezton;” above the ship a fleur-de-lis, the emblem of the Bourbons, the reigning family of Spain, with the motto “Yo solo” — I alone.

1849 Definition - Proh Pudor

This would tend to prove that the word Galvezton existed several centuries ago in Spanish heraldry, but has become obsolete. I find, in a collection of decrees of the Mexican Congress, an act of 1825, to open the port of Glavezton. Galvezton again! Shall we be compelled to acknowledge the deplorable fact that we do not know how to spell the name of our own lovely island and city? Proh Pudor!

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Jun 9, 1876

1817 - Niles Weekly Register

This is part of an article I found on the Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers website. There is more of it posted at this LINK, although, since they sell these papers, I don’t know how long the link will be good.  ( for the home page.)


The ibiblio website has transcriptions for the following at this LINK:



December 15, 1817.

Read, and ordered to lie upon the table.

Bull Baiting

June 29, 2010

Q. What is the etymology of the name bull dog?

A. The name is derived from the fact that these dogs were originally used in the ancient sport of bull baiting, which was popular among certain classes in England for at least 700 years, until it became illegal in 1835. The object of the dog was to seize the bull’s nose in his teeth, pin it to the ground and not let go. He was bred with an undershot jaw and a retreating nose, that he might hang on and breathe easily at the same time.

Middletown Times Herald (Middletown, New York)  Jun 17, 1937

Spelling is the Pitts!

June 23, 2010

Pittsburgh -- Pittsburg

A Question in Etymology.

An old dispute has been revived in the city of Pittsburg, or Pittsburgh, as the case may be. In old times they used to spell it with an “h,” after the English fashion of putting that letter where it is least needed. The dictionaries incline that way in this case. Worcester, who is called Wooster at the North, has “burgh — a corporate town or borough,” and Webster gives the choice of burg, burgh, burough and burh without the “g.” This ought to be enough to satisfy all parties; but it only widens the breach, and obliging people, who wish to satisfy all parties, have their hands full.






Half of the papers have “Pittsburg” in their head-lines; the other half have nailed “Pittsburgh.”

These images are from the same map. For the railway, they used the Pittsburg spelling, but for the city, they used Pittsburgh.

The railroads, to secure traffic, have to paint their cars on one side “Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago,” and on the other “Pittsburg, Fort Wayne and Chicago;” on the locomotives they put “P., F. W. and C.,” and allow each man to spell it with an “h” or not, as he pleases. Harper’s Gazetteer drops the “h.”

In the meantime there is a lull in the question whether the first syllable in the name of the city should have one or two “t’s.”

The site used to be called Fort Pitt, in honor of the great English statesman; but people now generally think it is named after the coal pits which abound in the neighborhood.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Jun 16, 1874


More newspaper examples:

An 1867 paper


1833 Paper - "Pittsburgh"


Now, just for fun, two that use BOTH spellings!

1854 -- Gold Rush Era - California Paper


1845 - Norwalk, Ohio Paper

Are You Quizzing Me?

June 16, 2010

QUIZ. — Very few words ever took such a run, or were saddled with so many meanings, as this monosyllable; and, however strange the word, it is still strange that not one of our lexicographers, from Bayley to Johnson, ever attempted an explanation, or gave a derivation of it. The reason is very obvious. It is because it has no meaning, nor is it derived from any language in the world, ever known, from the Babylonish confusion to this day.

When Richard Daly was patentee of the Irish theatres, he spent the evening of a Saturday in company with many of the wits and men of fashion of the day.

Gambling was introduced, when the manager staked a large sum that he would have spoken all through the principal streets of Dublin, by a certain hour the next day, Sunday, a word having no meaning, and being derived from no known language; wagers were laid, and stakes deposited. Daly repaired to the theatre, and despatched all the servants and supernumeraries with the word “Quiz,” which they chalked on every door and every shop window in town. Shops being shut all next day, every body going to & comming from their different places of worship, saw the word, and every body repeated it, so that ‘quiz’ was heard all through Dublin.

The circumstances of so strange a word being on every door and window, caused much surprize, and ever since, should a strange story be attempted to pass currant, it draws forth the expression — you are quizzing me.

The Peoples Press (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jun 5, 1835

Is it true? I don’t know, but if not, the author of the above article sure had a vivid imagination. Notice below in the word history, it is stated that the first recorded reference was in 1782, but then the next wasn’t until 1867. My reference, albeit just a mention in a newspaper, was from 1835.

From Yahoo Education online dictionary entry for QUIZ:


The origins of the word quiz are as difficult to pin down as the answers to some quizzes. We can say that its first recorded sense has to do with people, not tests. The term, first recorded in 1782, meant “an odd or eccentric person.” From the noun in this sense came a verb meaning “to make sport or fun of” and “to regard mockingly.” In English dialects and probably in American English the verb quiz acquired senses relating to interrogation and questioning. This presumably occurred because quiz was associated with question, inquisitive, or perhaps the English dialect verb quiset, “to question” (probably itself short for obsolete inquisite, “to investigate”). From this new area of meaning came the noun and verb senses all too familiar to students. The second recorded instance of the noun sense occurs in the writings of no less an educator than William James, who in a December 26, 1867, letter proffers the hope that “perhaps giving ‘quizzes’ in anatomy and physiology . . . may help along.”