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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 is the origin of the song “There’s a place in France/Where the naked ladies dance?” Are bay leaves poisonous?

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What came first, Dick or “dick”?

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What’s the origin of the golf term "mulligan"?

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What’s the origin of "to treat with kid gloves"?

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Is “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” a real word referring to Irish hookers?

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What’s the origin of “ten-gallon hat”?

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What’s the origin of “umpteen”?

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What’s the origin of “man of the cloth”?

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What’s the origin of “sophomore”?

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What’s the origin of "pumpernickel"?

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What’s the origin of "spitting image”?

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What’s the origin of "Good Samaritan"?

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What’s the origin of “a penny for your thoughts”?

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What’s the origin of “yellow-bellied”?

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What’s the origin of “primrose path”?

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What’s the origin of the expression "black sheep"?

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What’s the origin of “smart aleck”?

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What’s the origin of "Rock, Paper, Scissors"?

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What’s the origin of the gingerbread man?

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What is the origin of "by and large"?

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Who invented pizza?

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What’s the origin of “notary sojac”?

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What’s the origin of the meter and the metric system?

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What’s the origin of “hot dog”?

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What’s the origin of a "skins game" in golf?

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What’s the song "Yankee Doodle" all about?

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What’s the origin of the barber pole?

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What does the Chicago lyric “25 or 6 to 4” mean?

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What’s the origin of “old chestnut”?

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What’s the origin of “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”?

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What’s the origin of “break a leg” in show business?

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What’s the origin of “Kilroy was here”?