Where Do Words Come From?

Although the dictionary might seem definitive, language is constantly evolving. Slang changes to suit the times, new terms are invented to name new advancements, and sometimes, people leave such a strong mark on the world that they're immortalized in words. Take "shrapnel" and "saxophone," for example—both were named after real people. And Shakespeare was responsible for some 2,000 new words during his time, including "alligator," "dauntless," and "zany." Some words, such as "pink," used to mean something quite different than what they do today. Others have come to be considered vulgar in polite company. This playlist explores the surprising origins of many common words, and proves that language, like society, is always subject to change.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. The word boycott was named after Charles Boycott, a 19th century British land agent. 00:13

  2. The popular aquarium fish the guppy was named after British naturalist Robert John Lechmere Guppy. 04:07

  3. John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich is credited with the invention of the sandwich. 07:49

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Electromagnetically speaking, pink is not a color on the light spectrum. 00:26

  2. The pink feather pigment of flamingos comes from the beta carotene in their diets. 00:45

  3. Pink diamonds are a mystery to scientists—they don't know what kind of seismic shock would have been required to create them. 01:15

Key Facts In This Video

  1. In the early 1900s, the word "geek" described circus performers who would bite the heads off of small animals. 00:09

  2. In 1951, a Newsweek article announced that "someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd[.]" 00:53

  3. The proper pronunciation of Dr. Seuss is "Dr. Zoice." 01:31

Written by Curiosity Staff August 27, 2015

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