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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 Don Henley’s song about “forgiveness”?

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What’s the origin of keeping your fingers crossed?

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What’s the origin of the dunce cap?

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What’s the origin of “cocktail”?

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Is "niggardly" a racist word?

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What’s the origin of the British holiday custom Boxing Day?

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What’s the origin of "the life of Riley"?

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What’s the origin of “egg nog”?

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What’s the origin of the word “dad”?

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What’s the origin of "one fell swoop"?

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What’s the origin of the name Cleveland?

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What’s the origin of “churchkey,” meaning a can or bottle opener?

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What’s the origin of the chef’s hat?

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Why can’t Cecil get his facts straight about the origin of “Big Apple” and mention John J. Fitz Gerald? And what about “Windy City”?

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What’s the origin of the word "kudos"?

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What’s the origin of the British slang word “bloody”?

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What is the origin of “bated breath”?

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What’s the origin of the term "jaywalking"?

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What’s the origin of army dog tags?

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What’s the origin of the Jewish bread "challah"?

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What’s the origin of "son of a gun"?

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What’s the origin of "English," the kind you put on a ball?

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What’s the origin of the expression "peanut gallery"?

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What’s the origin of “abracadabra,” “hocus-pocus,” and “presto”?

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What’s the origin of the 21-gun salute?

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What’s the origin of “7-Up”?

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Who or what are Fig Newton cookies named after?

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Does “in like Flynn” refer to Errol Flynn’s success with women?

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What does “Judas Priest” mean?

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Mistletoe kissing origins? Why do worms surface during rain? (cont’d)

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Who are the “black Irish”?

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What’s the origin of the phrase, “the birds and the bees”?