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Word Roots Trivia

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The equivalent of calling someone a jerk in English is calling them a pickle in French.

Beets reminded early cooks of a bleeding animal when they cut them open, so they started calling them "beets." This was derived from the French word bÍte, meaning "beast."

The phrase "a red letter day" dates back to 1704, when holy days were marked in red letters in church calendars.

The phrase "guinea pig" originated when a tax was imposed on powder for wigs in England to help pay for the war with Napoleon. The list of those who had paid the guinea (one pound, one shilling) was posted on their parish church door. As they were the wealthy of the day, they became known as the guinea pigs.

Mothers were originally named mama or mommy (in many languages) because they have mammary glands.

The word "yo-yo" itself was a registered trademark of Duncan until 1965.

The expression "getting someone's goat" is based on the custom of keeping a goat in the stable with a racehorse as the horse's companion. The goat becomes a settling influence on the thoroughbred. If you owned a competing horse and were not above some dirty business, you could steal your rival's goat (seriously, it's been done) to upset the other horse and make it run a poor race. From goats and horses it was linguistically extended to people: in order to upset someone, "get their goat."

Upper and lower case letters are named 'upper' and 'lower', because in the time when all original print had to be set in individual letters, the 'upper case' letters were stored in the case on top of the case that stored the smaller, 'lower case' letters.

In India and Iran, the part of the house reserved for women is called a "zenana."

Pregnant goldfish are "twits."

The word "alcatraz" is Spanish for "pelican".

The Chinese ideogram for 'trouble' depicts two women living under one roof'.

The alteration of the architectural appearance of a city by the construction of skyscrapers and high-rise buildings is known as "Manhattanization". The term refers to the New York borough Manhattan.

The first college to use the word "campus" to describe its grounds was Princeton. "Campus" is Latin for "field."

The English-language alphabet originally had only 24 letters. One missing letter was J, which was the last letter to be added to the alphabet. The other latecomer to the alphabet was U.

The phrase "jet lag" was once called "boat lag", back before airplanes existed.

Dr. Seuss coined the word "nerd" in his 1950 book "If I Ran The Zoo"

Mountains are formed by a process called orogeny.

A "quidnunc" is a person who is eager to know the latest news and gossip, otherwise, a busybody.

Kyoto, which was the Japanese capital before Tokyo, means "old capital".

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