Cranky

The term “cranky” in modern conversation means someone is irritable or ill-tempered. Equivalent words include “crusty” or “grumpy.”

Ever wonder how certain expressions came about? Here are some examples and their original meanings. 


Coward

No one throughout history has ever looked with favor upon a “coward.” From the very beginning, it was a term laced with stigma.

Steerage

Watch James Cameron’s blockbuster film Titanic (1997), and you’ll hear the word “steerage” about a thousand times. No longer used in today’s luxury cruise industry, “steerage” was a staple term aboard nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ocean liners.

Longshoreman/men

Travel to any major port and you’ll see them. Longshoremen are the lifeblood of the shipping industry. 

They’re the ones who load and unload the massive cargo vessels that carry a huge variety of goods into and out of the United States every day. 

As for the word itself, “shoreman” is clear enough. But what about “long”?

Ever wonder how expressions like “G-man” and “wound tight” came about? Below are a few phrases like this and their original meanings. The Tribune will have more for you next month.


Brouhaha

Ever wonder how expressions like “stick to your guns” and “all hell broke loose” came about? Below are a few phrases like this and their original meanings. The Tribune will have more for you next month.


Blurb

The term itself sounds like nonsense talk: blurb. Yet, we use it so much that we rarely pause to give it a second thought. 

Ever wonder how expressions like “fine fettle” and “chock-full” came about? Below are a few phrases like this and their original meanings. The Tribune will have more for you next month.


 

Stick to your guns

The phrase “stick to your guns” is an old one, dating back to the eighteenth-century British variant, “Stand to your guns.” 

Ever wonder how expressions like “klutz” and “on the level” came about? Below are a few phrases like this and their original meanings. The Tribune will have more for you next month.


John Hancock

Copacetic

For those familiar with it, the word “copacetic” is probably most closely associated with the 1950s Jazz and beatnik cultures. As it’s used in everyday language, “copacetic” refers to something being “in order”; in other words, everything is a-okay.

Hello/Hi

Of all the words in the English language, “hello” and “hi” are among the most inconspicuous simply because we use them so often. They are also among that small group of words that require no definition—no explanation. 

Toodle-oo (toodaloo)

The British and the French haven’t always had the best relationship. In fact, they’ve long shared a disdain for one another, which is probably why we have the phrase “toodle-oo.”

Uncouth

When we say that someone is “uncouth,” it means they are rude, lewd, and generally inappropriate. The word comes from the Old English root “cuth,” which meant familiar.