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Words and Phrases Part Two

I enjoyed sharing some origins of words and phrases, last week, from The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 4th Edition (Facts on File Writer's Library) by Robert Hendrickson published in 2008. So, I decided to continue. Follow me through the alphabet. I’ll feature some of the words from each letter entry just as Mr. Hendrickson listed them.

As I said, this book is an incredible length of more than 900 pages and more than 15,000 entries. It’s a fascinating read for everyone interested in etymology.

This week features the letters D, E, and F.

Darb Not much heard anymore darb was common in the 1920s and 1930s for someone or something excellent, superior. It is said to have derived from the name of Ruby Darb, a voluptuous Oklahoma showgirl after whom many oilmen named new gushers.

Divan Divan has an involved but logical history. Originating as a Persian word meaning “a brochure,” it came to mean, in order: “a collection of poems”; “a register”; “a military pay book”; “an account book”; “a room in which an account book was kept”; “an account office or custom house”; “a court”; “a great hall”; and, finally, by 1597, “the chief piece of furniture in a great hall”!

Earthlight Earthlight is not a light on the earth; it is a light reflected from the earth to the moon and back that is visible on the dark side of the moon. British astronomer John Herschel seems to have coined the word in 1833.

Even keel The expression to get things on an even keel “to make things move smoothly,” dates back to at least the early 19th century. It, of course, derives from the nautical term an even keel, which one early writer defined this way: “A ship is said to swim on an even keel when she draws the same quantity of water abaft as forward.”

Falderol First used as a meaningless refrain in Scottish songs (as in Browning’s line Fol-di-rol-di-rido-liddle-iddle-o!) falderol or folderal, recorded early in the 18th century, came within a century or so to mean “nonsense, empty talk or ideas.”

Fellowfeel As a synonym for empathy, the ability to get inside the other fellow’s skin and feel like him, fellowfeel was commonly used from the 17th through the 19th century. The word is a back-formation from fellowfeeling, a rendering of the Latin compassio.

I hope you will enjoy some darb reading and craft poems, stories, and books as you relax on your divan this summer.

Happy writing :->

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