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Words and Phrases Part Five

Here's more words on words 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). This week we're looking at M, N, and O.

Margarine The Latin margarita, "pearl," is the ancestor of margarine, which before dies were commonly added, was a white, pearl-like substance extracted from hog's lard. Oleomargarine (from the Latin oleum, "oil," plus margarine) was coined first, in 1854, by the French chemist Marcellin Berthelot, and shortened to margarine in the U.S. by 1873.

Market The Latin word mercari, "to trade," altered to markatte and finally market, came to be applied, by the 12th century, to the place where the trading occurred. The word may possibly have been used 300 to 400 years before that.

Neither here nor there Irrelevant, immaterial, as in : "That's neither here nor there; let's get back to the subject at hand." The phrase derives from neither so nor so (neither this nor that), an English expression that has been traced back to 1783.

Nifty Nifty for “smart, stylish, fine, or clever” may have originated as American theatrical slang. It is first recorded in an 1865 poem by Bret Harte, the author claiming that the word derived from magnificent. Another possible source is the older snifty, “having a pleasant smell.”

On cloud nine One explanation for this expression, which only dates back to about 1950, is that meteorologists classify clouds by number, number nine being the highest clouds (the cumulonimbus). Thus if one is on cloud nine, he or she is feeling very high, very good.

Outta sight! Often regarded as original college slang of the 1960s, outta sight, for “something remarkable or wonderful,” has been part of the language since the 1840s, in the Bowery expression out of sight. Stephen Crane used it in his first novel Maggie: A girl of the Streets (1896): “I’m stuck on her shape. It’s outa sight...”

I hope you all have an outta sight weekend!

Happy Writing :->

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