Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Some word origins


Not worth a tinker’s damn:

Sometimes the phrase is expressed as not giving a tinker’s cuss.

A tinker was an itinerant mender of pots and pans. Tinkers had a reputation for cursing, like many tradesmen of that era, and a tinker’s damn was not worth much because tinkers damned everything.


Tit for tat:

The phrase means retaliation, respond in kind, and it developed from the phrase first recorded in the early 15th century of “tip for tap”, meaning a blow for a blow.  By the mid 16th century the phrase had become “tit for tat”.

They say that life is tit for tat
And that's the way I live
So, I deserve a lot of tat
For what I've got to give

-       Lyric from “When You’re Good to Mama”, Chicago, sung by Queen Latifah


Skid Row:

The term is an Americanism that refers to the lower end of town, often frequented by vagrants, alcoholics and the homeless.

The term originated in the 19th century from “skid road”, referring to a logging road paved with tree trunks, or skids. By the 20th century the term came to refer to a run-down neighbourhood, the place where the loggers gathered when in town.  From there the words changed to “skid row”.

From the 1880 New York Adirondack Survey:

Advised that lumbermen had cut “skid roads” on which logs were drawn..., I changed the route.

Godfrey Irwin’s 1931 American Tramp and Underworld Slang records “Skid row, the district where workers congregate when in town or away from their job.”  Albin Jay Pollock’s 1935 The Underworld Speaks records “Skid row, district in a city where tramps (bums) congregate.”


Take the mickey:

A phrase  commonly used in the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, it means to make fun of someone.

It is believed that the phrase “Take the mickey" may be an abbreviated form of the Cockney rhyming slang "take the Mickey Bliss", a euphemism for "take the piss." It has also been suggested that "mickey" is a contraction of "micturition,"in which case "take the micturition" would be a synonymous euphemism for "take the piss." The phrase has been noted since the 1930s.

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