The Verb "Unfriended" Is Way Older Than Facebook

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The Verb "Unfriended" Is Way Older Than Facebook

After one too many rants on your Facebook feed, you may decide to unfriend your annoying aunt Helen once and for all. Unfriend, which means "to remove (someone) from a list of friends or contacts on a social networking website," has become a commonly used verb in our vocabulary. But where did the term come from? According to Interesting Literature, the Middle English poem "Brut" by Layamon is the first known usage of both "muggle" and a form of "unfriend": "We sollen ... slean houre onfrendes and King Learwenden after Brenne." Here, the noun form of unfriend (though spelled slightly differently) delineates someone who is not a friend, but not necessarily an enemy either. It wasn't until the 17th century that "unfriend" was first used as a verb. Mark Zuckerberg can thank the late, great William Shakespeare.

The Norman Conquest Is Why Steak Is "Beef" and Not "Cow"

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The Norman Conquest Is Why Steak Is "Beef" and Not "Cow"

If you've ever wondered why we call meat beef, pork, mutton, and venison instead of cow, pig, sheep, and deer, you can thank the lousy communication skills of a long dead Anglo-Saxon king. King Edward The Confessor died on January 5, 1066, and as he had no children, his brother-in-law Harold Godwin was quickly elected to succeed him. Problem was, Edward had apparently forgotten to tell anyone that he promised the throne to his first cousin once removed: William, Duke of Normandy. William was not happy about that.

These Words Seem Related, But They're Not

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These Words Seem Related, But They're Not

Etymology, or the study of the origins of words, can be surprising. Did you assume that male and female, pen and pencil, or rage and outrage were related? It would be logical to think so. But while the modern words may have related meanings, these words have entirely different roots. Take male and female. Male comes from the Latin masculus. But the word female comes from the French femelle which in turn comes from the Latin femella. According to a Mental Floss article by linguist Arika Okrent, the fact that the modern-day English versions of the words sound similar is pure coincidence. Pen and pencil, two writing utensils with seemingly similar roots, actually refer to totally different things. Pen, from the Latin penna for feather, is because pens literally were originally feathers. Pencil, on the other hand, is from the Latin penicillus, which means paintbrush, because the word first referred to a paintbrush with a tapered end. Get the surprising backstory on more words that seem like they'd be related (house and penthouse, man and human, ginger and gingerly) with these videos.

"Avant-Garde" Has Its Origins In The Military

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"Avant-Garde" Has Its Origins In The Military

Generally, when you think of the word "avant-garde" you think of art, music, or literature that goes against convention. In simple terms, avant-garde work is a little weird. The meaning of the term originated in military speak, where it referred to the "advanced guard," a group of soldiers that moved ahead in front of the group. This may relate to how we use it to describe the arts in that "avant-garde" artists always seem to be pushing the limits of art. Considered the quintessential example of avant-garde art is the Dada movement-a movement that questioned what art is.

Where Does The Word "Nerd" Come From?

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Where Does The Word "Nerd" Come From?

The first printed instance of the word "nerd" occurs in the Dr. Seuss book "If I Ran the Zoo," published in 1950. The passage lists "a nerd" as one of the fantastical animals that the protagonist would put in his zoo. The text reads: "And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo/And bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo/ A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!" One year later, Newsweek magazine included the word in an article with its now-familiar definition: someone who's a "drip" or a "square." Some people believe that "nerds" popular usage evolved from the 1940s slang term "nert," which describes a "stupid or crazy person."

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Key Facts to Know

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    In the early 1900s, the word "geek" described circus performers who would bite the heads off of small animals. 0:09

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    In 1951, a Newsweek article announced that "someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd[.]" 0:53

  • 3

    The proper pronunciation of Dr. Seuss is "Dr. Zoice." 1:31