This week I came upon a number of things that took my interest which can’t really be put neatly in one specific bin.
We know what we mean by hodgepodge, but where did it come from? Before you get into a stew about that, the term actually originated in the 14th and 15th centuries, which was an alteration of the word hotchpotch, which, indeed, was a stew. It was made with goose, wine, herbs and spices, and probably anything else within arms reach of the cook. I guess that’s the “other ingredients” the definition refers to. The Online Etymology Dictionary also reports that it was an “earlier Anglo-French legal term meaning collection of property in a common pot before dividing it equally.” Sounds more like modern divorce proceedings to me.
Mishmash, seems to come from the same time, 15th century, mysse-masche, called a reduplication of ‘mash’ designed for folks who needed more than one syllable to express the meaning of “a confused mess” (definitely not the stew).
I ran into a term this week that someone had gotten off ‘scot free’ which piqued my curiousity. I wanted to know what it really meant and where it came from. First the definiton: “getting away with something, without punishment.” But what does that have to do with Scotland apart from one being caught on video at a grad ceremony participating in a headstand contest in a kilt. According to Oxford Dictionary, the term scot in this phrase has nothing to do with Scotland. The term actually refers to taxes, dues and payments, which brings to mind the escapades of one Robin of Locksley. Robin Hood, as he was known, plundered the treasury of the Sherriff of Nottingham on behalf of the poor – so says the myth. It would seem that our Robin may have been helping himself to the scot and getting away without punishment, thus achieving the reputation as one who got away scot free. As a tangent to the story, the Kelowna-based author, expat Scot, Jack Whyte, in his historical novel The Forest Laird, suggests that Robin Hood was really William Wallace (Braveheart). It’s a great read and interesting in this context, as perhaps being the Scot who got away with the scot, scot free, (so to speak) until he was finally captured.
It would surely put him behind the eight ball, if there has been an eight ball in those days. Actually, the phrase is an idiom describing an awkward or difficult position. The origin is from the game of pool or billiards, a game played with coloured (numbered) balls and sticks. No, it’s not floor hockey. Anyway, the object is to poke the cue ball (white ball) with the cue (the stick thingee) and cause the ball to hit another ball, hopefully knocking the second ball into one of the holes positioned around the table. You can do that with all the balls except the eight ball (until the end). Hitting the eight ball with the cue ball before hitting any others invokes a penalty, so if your opponent leaves the cue ball stuck behind the eight ball after his shot, you are said to be left behind the eight ball and unable to play without penalty. Just like real life huh?
I’ll leave you with a couple of mis-pronunciations I heard in the media this week. One announcer said they had just had a moment of déjà-view (déjà-vu). I wonder if that meant he’d had a vision to go along with the familiar experience, and hats off to the new announcer who proclaimed that there was road work going on near the town of Cachet (Cash-ay) Creek. Well, I guess the desert does have a certain cachet, particularly when the bloom is on the sage. Now that’s worth keeping a vigual (vij-yew-al) about. I hope they use a vigil light.