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Origin Stories

Why do we call things what we do? The Straight Dope explains the origins and etymology of words and phrases we often take for granted.

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What’s the origin of “the finger”?

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What’s the origin of Uncle Sam?

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What’s the origin of the skull and crossbones pirate flag?

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Why are the police called cops, pigs, or the fuzz?

A STAFF REPORT FROM THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD

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How did “nuts” and “bananas” come to mean “crazy”?

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Why is it called a restroom, anyway?

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How did some crime fiction come to be described as “hard-boiled”?

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How did public libraries get started?

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What’s the origin of “sight for sore eyes”?

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What’s the origin of "cut to the chase"?

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What’s the origin of “slapstick”?

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What’s the origin of "slush fund"?

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What’s the origin of "slow boat to China"?

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What’s up with “deviled” eggs, ham, etc.?

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What’s the origin of the tooth fairy?

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What’s the origin of "lickety-split"?

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What’s the origin of pig Latin?

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What’s the origin of “coon’s age”?

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What’s the origin of "bury the hatchet"?

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What’s the origin of “Canuck”?

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What’s the origin of “copacetic”?

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What’s the origin of April Fool’s Day?

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What’s the origin of "Catch-22"?

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What’s the origin of “fuckin’ A”?

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Many English words have Latin roots, but what are the roots of Latin?

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What’s the origin of “cock and bull”?

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What’s the origin of “loophole”?

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Was the name Wendy invented for the book "Peter Pan"?

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What’s the origin of the suffix "-age"?

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What’s the origin of “Tin Pan Alley”?

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Is “dead reckoning” short for “deduced reckoning”?

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What’s the origin of "pigtails"?

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What’s the origin of “baker’s dozen”?

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What’s the origin of “whoops-a-daisy”?

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What’s the origin of “booby trap”?

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What’s the origin of French fries?

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What’s the origin of “spotted dick”?