Words from Walt Whitman: More Than Barbaric Yawps

Walt_Whitman_-_George_Collins_Cox

While best known for his “barbaric yawp,” poet and journalist Walt Whitman was also the creator of words, several of which we still use today. On his birthday, we take a look at six words and phrases Whitman coined or popularized.

open road

“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road!”

Song of the Open Road,” 1857

The term open road originally referred to a country road, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), “outside the urban areas, where unimpeded driving is possible.” The figurative sense of “freedom of movement” was first used by Whitman in a poem in his collection, Leaves of Grass.

shebang

“Besides the hospitals, I also go occasionally on long tours through the camps, talking with the men, &c. Sometimes at night among the groups around the fires, in their shebang enclosures of bushes.”

Specimen Days,” The Complete Prose Works of Walt Whitman, 1862

Before shebang became the whole shebang, Whitman used it to mean a shanty or temporary living quarters. He might have picked it up from Civil War soldiers who, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, popularized the phrase. The word might be an alteration of shebeen, meaning an unlicensed drinking establishment, but the tavern sense of shebang came after the Civil War.

Shebang came to mean any situation or matter of concern around 1869 or earlier, says the OED, which lists Mark Twain’s as the earliest recorded usage: “I like the book, I like you and your style and your business vim, and believe the chebang will be a success.”

Trib

Trib: of July 4 to Rob’t Buchanan, Oban S.”

Daybook, 1878

Whitman may have been the first to nickname a U.S. newspaper with “tribune” in its title (e.g., the Chicago Tribune) the Trib.

northeasterner

“There shall be countless linked hands—namely, the Northeasterner‘s, and the Northwesterner’s, and the Southwesterner’s, and those of the interior.”

Leaves of Grass, 1860

If you call yourself a northeasterner, you have Whitman to thank. He was also the first to use native state words Kansian, Oregonese, and Utahan.

alert

“When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me.”

A Broadway Pageant,” 1860

Before the 20th century, using alert as a verb was rare, says the OED. Whitman’s is the earliest recorded usage.

escapee

“Some three or four hundred more escapees from the confederate army came up on the boat.”

Specimen Days,” 1875–1876

While Whitman’s recorded usage is from the 1870s, the Online Etymology Dictionary says escapee came about in American English around 1865, perhaps, like shebang, in association with Civil War soldiers.

8 Old-Timey Names for a Soft Drink

In coke, I trust

Depending on where you live in the United States, you might have a different name for a sweet, carbonated beverage. Live on the west coast or in the northeast? It’s soda. The midwest? That’s pop. Parts of the south? Coke (even if it’s Sprite).

But how about what Americans used to call fizzy sugar water? With our friends at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), we bring you eight old-timey names for a soft drink.

soft beer

This old-fashioned name was used especially in Maine. A 1925 quote in DARE says that “even today in the remote northern part of Maine, carbonated beverages are referred to as ‘soft beer.’” According to the American Heritage Dictionary, small beer refers to weak or inferior beer, and, by extension, unimportant, trivial things. To think small beer of is to think lowly of someone or something, says the Oxford English Dictionary.

soda dope

This old-timey term might have been used especially in North Carolina. Also sodey dope, sody dope, or just dope, a southern colloquialism for a soft drink.

tonic

While some of us might equate tonic with tonic water, a quinine-flavored carbonated drink, in New England, it refers to a carbonated soft drink in general.

bottled drink

This vintage phrase was chiefly used in the South, especially North Carolina. Also bottle drink.

cold drink

If you happen to be in the Lower Mississippi Valley and someone offers you a cold drink, you can expect a non-alcoholic, carbonated, bottled beverage that won’t necessarily be cold, at least according to one quote in DARE.

drink

“I need a drink!” some of us might say when we crave a cocktail. But in the southern region, such a term refers to a booze-free, bubbly beverage.

soda water

To some of us soda water might refer to “a solution of water, sodium bicarbonate, and acid,” but to some, especially in Texas and the Lower Mississippi Valley, it refers to carbonated water that’s been sweetened and flavored.

belly wash

This saying originally referred to a drink, usually alcoholic, of poor quality, but in some regions of the U.S. it means any soft drink, usually carbonated. Usage is scattered throughout the country. The Journal of American Folklore cites a 1964 quote from a central Pennsylvania resident: “We had a plant in our town which bottled pop, and we boys would go to the ‘belly-wash factory.’”

What do you call a carbonated soft drink? Tell us in the comments!

The language of instant noodles

Chicken ramen

Top Ramen. Oodles of Noodles. Stroke in a bowl. Whatever you call instant noodles, you have one man to thank: Momofuku Ando, born on this day in 1910.

Originally from Taiwan, Ando moved to Osaka in his early 20s. After World War II, he witnessed the ravages of war, including food shortages. In response he embarked on a quest to invent noodles that were “tasty, inexpensive and easy to prepare.” In 1958, at the age of 48, he introduced Chicken Ramen, and 13 years later, Cup Noodles, inspired by Americans using Styrofoam cups as makeshift ramen bowls.

Since then the popularity of instant noodles has spread around the world, and with it, its different monikers. Today we slurp up the language of instant ramen.

Kappu men (Japan)

Let’s start where it all began. Instant noodles are often referred to by the genericized brand name, kappu men, what Americans know as Cup Noodles. Kappu is a “Japanification” of the word “cup” while men is the Japanese for “noodles.”

Pao mian (Taiwan)

Pao mian translates literally as “add hot water noodles.” (Pao Mian Ba, which means something like, “Let’s make instant noodles,” is known as the Codecademy of China.) Some Taiwan natives might also call instant noodles sun lih men. a brand introduced in the late 1960s.

Fang bian mian (China)

Those in the mainland turn to fang bian mian for a quick meal. The catchy rhyming phrase translates as “convenient noodles.” However, searching for fang bian mian on Weibo, a popular microblogging site, may turn up no results. The term was blocked back in 2014 because of its circuitous connection with Zhou Yongkang, a retired senior leader convicted for corruption.

Doll noodles (Hong Kong)

Hong Kongers in a rush might grab a bowl of gong je mein or doll noodles. Named for the little guy on the Nissin package, the term now refers to any brand.

Ramyeon (Korea)

Spicy ramyeon or ramyun comes from a brand name too, Shin Ramyun. Want to add some zing to your instant meal? Here are 13 ways of livening up a bowl of ramyeon.

Indomie (Indonesia)

Indomie is a brand that was introduced in Indonesia in the late 1960s, and has “become synonymous with instant noodles.” Warung indomie are small shops that sell cooked instant noodles, regardless of brand.

Maggi (Malaysia)

Maggi is a popular brand that’s become synonymous with instant noodles in general. They’re eaten at home and served in mamak food stalls. Maggi goreng is a kind of stir-fried dish that uses instant noodles. In 2015, Maggi noodles were banned in India for several months over health concerns.

Instant mami (Philippines)

Mami is a kind of noodle soup said to be invented by chef and entrepreneur Ma Mon Luk, who was born in China around 1896 and emigrated to the Philippines in 1918. Mami supposedly comes from a combination of the inventor’s name, Ma, and mi-ki, the Chinese word for egg noodles.

Mama (Thailand)

While Mama instant noodles aren’t the only brand in Thailand, they might be “the byword for for all types of instant noodles” in the country. Mama noodles are often used in other dishes such as phat mama, stir-fried instant noodles, and yum mama, noodle salad that uses instant noodles. Or you might make like Thai-American model Chrissy Teigen and add Mama instant noodles to your mother’s homemade tomyum broth.

Miojo (Brazil)

In Brazil, instant noodles might be called miojo, named for the brand that celebrated the 50th anniversary of its presence in the Brazilian market in 2014.

Maruchan (Mexico)

This brand is so popular in Mexico, one paper dubbed the country Maruchan Nation. Another name for instant noodles might be sopa para flojos, or “lazy people’s soup.”

Two-minute noodles (Australia)

Got two minutes down under? Then you can make a meal of instant noodles.

Pot Noodles (United Kingdom)

A popular brand introduced in the late 1970s, Pot Noodles have been associated with what’s called “lad culture.” The Oxford English Dictionary describes lad culture as “attitudes and behaviour considered to be typical of a ‘lad,’” or:

A young man characterized by his enjoyment of social drinking, sport, and other activities considered to be male-oriented, his engagement in casual sexual relationships, and often by attitudes or behaviour regarded as irresponsible, sexist, or boorish.

A 2013 New Statesman article calls Pot Noodles “Lad Culture in snack form,” complete with “drooling, retrograde sexism,” and a pretty offensive ad campaign. Since then, however, Pot Noodles has attempted to change their tune.

18 Linguistic (And Literal) Animal Blends

2 Zonkeys

You may have heard of the pizzly, a cross between polar and grizzly bears. Normally, never the twain shall meet: polar bears are marine mammals, says the Washington Post, while grizzlies are landlubbers. However, the twain are meeting now as sea ice shrinks and the tundra expands.

Pizzlies (or grolars if you prefer) got us thinking about other animal mixes. Check out these 18 linguistic and literal beastly blends.

Tigon, liger

These tiger hybrids are perhaps the most well-known of unusual animal fusions. A tigon is a cross between a male tiger and a female lion while a liger is the product of a male lion and a female tiger. Slate warns that while crossbreeding two big cats may seem like a no-brainer, there are downsides. For instance, ligers can “suffer from unsustainable growth.” Often, as a result, “their hearts give out.”

The word tigon first appeared in English in the late 1920s, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The first tigon may have been shown in a touring British circus in the 19th century while one of the most famous early tigons was presented to the Zoological Gardens in Regent’s Park in 1924 or 1928. While the first ligers on record may be from 1824, the word didn’t appear in print until about 1938.

Leopon, jagulep

A leopon is the product of a leopard and a lion, and may have first been bred in the early 20th century. A jagulep is what you get when you cross a jaguar and leopard.

The leopard itself was originally thought to be a hybrid, specifically between a lion and a panther, says Online Etymology Dictionary. The word is from the late 13th century and comes from the Late Latin leopardus, literally “lion-panther.” The word jaguar is from about 1600 and is Portuguese in origin, ultimately coming from the Guarani jaguá, yaguar, “dog.”

Coydog, wolf dog, coywolf

While you won’t find any labradoodles or cockapoos here (check out our classic dog words post for those), you will find these coyote, wolf, and dog concoctions. The coydog isn’t a shy Fido but the result of a coyote and feral dog pairing. A wolf dog, while also a dog trained to hunt wolves, is the lovechild of a wolf and a dog. Finally, a coywolf is the output of a coyote-wolf union.

Wholphin

What do you get when you cross a female bottlenose dolphin and a male false killer whale? A wholphin of course.

The word wholphin is a medley of Old English and Greek parts. The word whale is from the ninth century and comes from the Old English hwæl. Dolphin is from the 14th century and ultimately comes from the Greek delphis, which is related to delphys, “womb,” possibly from the idea “of the animal bearing live young, or from its shape.”

Mule, hinny

A mule may not be exotic, but it is indeed an amalgam, in this case of a male donkey and female horse. Meanwhile, a hinny is a mix between a male horse and a female donkey.

While infertile, mules might be considered a result of hybrid vigor, also known as heterosis, in which “increased vigor or other superior qualities [arise] from the crossbreeding of genetically different plants or animals.” Mules are stronger than horses of similar size yet eat less, and have the endurance and independence of donkeys.

The word mule is from the 12th century and is Latin in origin. Hinny is from the 1680s and comes from the Greek innos, which has the same sense but is of unknown origin.

Zonkey, zorse, zebrinny

A zebra hybrid is known as a zebroid, a term attested to 1899, according to the OED: “The zebroid, or hybrid between the horse and the zebra, ‘will be the mule of the 20th century’.” Zebroids include the zonkey, a cross between a zebra and donkey; the zorse, the offspring of a female horse and male zebra; and the zebrinny, that of a male horse and female zebra. The term zebrinny was coined by one Professor E. C. Ewart. Like mules, zebroids are almost always infertile, says Slate, and sometimes experience dwarfism.

Dzo, zobo, yakalo

The dzo, zobo, and yakalo are, you guessed it, yaks crossed with, respectively, a domesticated cow, a zebu, and the American bison or buffalo.

The dzo is the sterile male while the dzomo is the fertile female. Like the mule, they’re a product of hybrid vigor, and are considered larger and stronger than other yak and cattle in the region. The words dzo, dzomo, zobo, and yak are Tibetan in origin. Yak, which comes from gyag, is thought to be imitative.

Geep

No, not that not that Jeep. A geep is a sheep-goat hybrid. Such successful matings are rare, says Modern Farmer, and “most resulting pregnancies are never carried to term.” Understandably, some experts are suspicious of those claiming to have a real-life geep on their hands. “There are lots of anecdotes floating around about these hybrids,” says a professor from UC Davis, “but there are very few legitimate documented cases.”

Cama

The cama is what you get when you cross two long-necked creatures. Size-wise, the infertile cama is between the camel and the llama, says Slate. It doesn’t have a hump but it does “seem to have a thicker bone structure than” a llama. Its coat is “long-haired and llama-y while the tail is more camelicious—which is also the name of a popular camel milk brand, FYI.”

For even more animal hybrids, check out this list.

The Year of the Rooster words

Rooster

Get your firecrackers and red envelopes ready, the Lunar New Year is almost here!

As you may know,  the Chinese zodiac rotates on a 12-year cycle, with an animal representing each year. This time around it’s the hardworking and ostentatious rooster, which got us thinking about the origin of rooster words. Here’s a brief history of those terms that go cock-a-doodle-doo.

Cock versus rooster

The word cock, referring to an adult male chicken, is quite old, originating in the late ninth century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It comes from the Old English cocc, “male bird,” and is imitative in origin.

The more salacious meaning of cock arose (ahem) around 1618. Rooster, perhaps a euphemistic shortening of the older roost-cock, is from the 1770s. The OED describes the term as chiefly used in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, while the Online Etymology Dictionary says rooster became “favored in the U.S. originally as a puritan alternative to cock (n.) after it had acquired the secondary sense ‘penis.’”

Chanticleer

Another name for a rooster, chanticleer is a 14th-century term that started as proper name and comes from animal fables. Other such animal names include bruin for bear, grimalkin for cat, and Reynard for fox. Chanticleer comes from the French chanter, “to sing.”

Cockatrice

A cockatrice is mythic serpent that hatches from a cock’s egg, has “the power to kill by its glance,” and has characteristics of both a snake and a rooster. However, the word doesn’t come from the Old English cocc but the Latin calcāre, “to track.”

Cock-a-doodle-doo

This onomatopoetic word for a rooster cry is attested to 1573, says the OED. Other languages have their own versions. In French it’s cocorico; in German, kikeriki; and in Russian, kikareku. Check out this post for a list of cock-a-doodle-doos from around the world.

Cock-and-bull story

This useful phrase referring to “an absurd or highly improbable tale passed off as being true” might be allusion to Aesop’s fables, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, and their “incredible talking animals.”

Want more fowl words? Check out this list. Happy Year of the Rooster!

A close look at some “cozy” words

cozy

By now you might have heard about the Danish phenomenon, hygge, a kind of cozy contentment, which sounds heavenly on chilly winter days like these. That got us wondering about the English word cozy, where it comes from, and about other cozy words and expressions.

Some not-so-clear cozy origins

While we all know what cozy means, it’s not clear where the word comes from. The Online Etymology Dictionary says it started out as colsie, which is Scottish dialect, and might ultimately be of Scandinavian origin. For instance, the Norwegian kose seg means “to bask” or “be cozy.”

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), on the other hand, doesn’t mention the Scandinavian connection. While it agrees the word is originally Scots, “and perhaps northern English,” it proposes a possible connection with old meanings of cosh, “neat; snug; quiet; comfortable,” or “a cottage; a hovel,” or the Gaelic còsagach, “full of holes or crevices; sheltered, snug, warm.” But then it immediately shuts these theories down, saying neither “seems tenable.”

Regardless, the earliest meaning of cozy, again according to the OED, is in regard to people —  “Comfortable from being warm and sheltered; snug” — with the earliest citation from 1665 in a sermon by a minister named William Guthrie: “When Israel was Colsie at Home.”

The next oldest meaning is about place: sheltered and warm, or that which is warm and comfortable. The earliest recorded usage is from Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1786: “Then canie, in some cozie place, They close the day.”

The newest meaning of cozy is from the 1920s: “warmly intimate or friendly,” but also the pejorative sense of “complacent, smug.” The earliest citation is in a 1927 letter by English essayist Max Beerbohm: “We liked her very much. She isn’t exactly cosy, but she’s very spirited.”

More “cozy” words

How to keep that pot of tea warm? With a tea-cozy of course (or if you prefer your beverage warmers British, tea-cosy). The earliest recorded usage is from 1863 by scientist John Tyndall in his book Heat: A Mode of Motion: “It is not unusual to preserve the heat of teapots by a woollen covering, but the ‘cosy’ must fit loosely.” An egg-cozy is a similarly quilted covering but for, you guessed it, a boiled egg.

A cosy seat (1876), says the OED, is “a canopied seat for two, occupying a corner of a room,” while a cosy corner (1894) is “an upholstered seat which fits into a corner of a room,” or “such a corner, cosily furnished.” Cosy stove was a proprietary name for “a free-standing enclosed stove.”

One of our favorite cozy words is coze, “to be snug, comfortable, or cozy,” or  “anything snug, comfortable, or cozy; specifically, a cozy conversation, or tête-à-tête.” The term might have been coined by Jane Austen  in her 1814 novel Mansfield Park:

Miss Crawford appeared gratified by the application, and after a moment’s thought, urged Fanny’s returning with her in a much more cordial manner than before, and proposed their going up into her room, where they might have a comfortable coze. . .

One night say that cozy mysteries, also known as cozies, are Austen-like — light, humorous, and quirky, unlike darker and more violent traditional crime fiction. When and where the term originated, however, is, well, a mystery. This blogger uncovered some of the same findings we did, including this 1992 article in The New York Times: “Thrillers like Thomas Harris’s ‘Silence of the Lambs’ have incited a new wave of polite, ‘cozy’ mysteries, remarkable for their nonthreatening content and nonviolent characters.”

Earlier is a use in a 1986 magazine, San Francisco Focus (“Winn cites Christie as the doyenne of cozy mystery writers”), and a 1987 issue of Kirkus Reviews: “A sluggish attempt at writing a modern thriller in the style of an old-fashioned tea-cozy mystery, full of stiff upper lips and bracing cups of tea.”

Some “snug” sleuthing

A cozy word that might give coze a run for its money is snuggery, a British term for a snug, warm, comfortable place or position. The OED describes it as a small and cozy room, “into which a person retires for seclusion or quiet; a bachelor’s den.” Another meaning is “the bar-parlour of an inn or public-house.”

The word snug, like cozy, might be of Scandinavian origin. The sense of “compact, trim” is from the 1590s, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, and was originally a nautical term, especially meaning “protected from the weather.” This might have come from a “Scandinavian source” such as the Old Norse snoggr, “short-haired,” or the Old Danish snøg, “neat, tidy.”

The sense of “in a state of ease or comfort” was first recorded in the 1620s while “fit closely” is from 1838. And in case you were wondering, the the expression snug as a bug in a rug originated around 1769. Before then you’d have said snug as a bee in a box, which we’d argue sounds far less cozy.

A ‘Basket of Deplorables’: Exploring the origins

ct-hillary-clinton-trump-supporters-basket-of--001

Hillary Clinton recently declared that half of Donald Trump’s supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables.” In other words, they were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”

The Democratic presidential candidate has since expressed regret over the statement, but that hasn’t stopped us from wondering about the phrase.

Steve Katz of Mother Jones asked us if Clinton was the first to utter it:

Katy Tur of NBC points out it’s not the first time Clinton has used “the deplorables”:

But how about the “basket” half of it?

Let’s start with the latter. Nowadays deplorable is mostly used as an adjective. It originated in the early 1600s, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), to mean “lamentable, very sad, grievous, miserable, wretched,” and comes from the French déplorable. The verb form, deplore, “to weep for, bewail, lament,” is about 50 years older.

Around the mid-1800s, the verb form gained the meaning of regarding something “as scandalous,” or “to feel or express strong disapproval of.” The OED’s earliest citation is from Herman Melville in Moby-Dick: “It is much to be deplored that the mast-heads of a southern whale ship are unprovided with..crow’s-nests.”

It was around 1828 that deplorables was first used as a noun. Referring to “deplorable ills,” it was perhaps first used by Sir Walter Scott: “What better is an old fellow, mauled with rheumatism and other deplorables?”

Another early instance of deplorables appears in a September 1901 issue of The Smart Set: A Magazine of Cleverness, referring to some unsavory individuals: “He turned to the east and took a Third avenue car down town. It carried a load of deplorables; all uninteresting, some offensive.”

Now, how about that basket? We couldn’t find any uses of “basket of deplorables” from before Clinton’s. But we did find a couple of new-to-us “basket of” idioms.

There’s basket of currencies, an economics term meaning “an agreed range of currencies, goods, etc. whose combined values can be used as a basis for calculating an average or comparative value.”

Then there’s basket of chips. According to the Dictionary of Regional American English (DARE), the idiom is used in comparisons — for  instance, “as smiling as a basket of chips” means “showing great happiness.” The OED’s earliest citation of basket of chips is from 1788: “He grins like a basket of chips.” DARE also cites “polite as a basket of chips,” meaning “extremely or obsequiously polite.”

Could Clinton have been channeling basket of chips when she came out with basket of deplorables? Perhaps: DARE includes Arkansas, Clinton’s longtime home, as a region where one might hear a “basket of chips” variation.

We admit it’s a bit of a stretch. What we do know is that basket of deplorables is sure to give binders full of women a run for its money.

Be sure to also check out Ben Zimmer’s Language Log post on the phrase.