Saturday, July 18, 2009

Catherine H: Etymologies 1-4

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary

pitch, v

c.1205, "to thrust in, fasten, settle," probably from an unrecorded O.E. piccean, related to the root of the verb prick. The original past tense was pight. Sense in pitch a tent (1297) is from notion of "driving in" the pegs; meaning "throw a ball" evolved c.1386 from that of "hit the mark." Noun meaning "act of throwing" is recorded from 1833. The noun meaning "act of plunging headfirst" is from 1762; sense of "slope, degree, inclination" is from 1542; musical sense is from 1597; but the connection of these is obscure. Sales pitch is attested from 1876, probably extended from meaning "stall pitched as a sales booth" (1811). Pitch-pipe is attested from 1711. Pitcher "one who pitches" is recorded from 1722, originally hay into a wagon, etc.; baseball sense first recorded 1845.


1495, echoic of bees and other insects. Meaning "a busy rumor" is attested from 1605. Aviation sense of "fly low and close" is 1941. Sense of "pleasant sense of intoxication" first recorded 1935. The game of counting off, with 7 or multiples of it replaced by buzz is attested from 1864. Buzzword first attested 1946. Buzz off (1914) originally meant "to ring off on the telephone." Buzzer "apparatus for making loud buzzing noises" is from 1870.


O.E. cranc- preserved only in crancstaf "a weaver's instrument," from P.Gmc. base krank-, and related to crincan "to bend, yield." Eng. retains the literal sense of the ancient root, while Ger. and Du. krank "sick," formerly "weak, small," is a figurative use. The sense of "an eccentric person," especially one who is irrationally fixated, is first recorded 1833, said to be from the crank of a barrel organ, which makes it play the same tune over and over, but more likely a back-formation from cranky "cross-tempered, irritable" (1821), and evolving from earlier senses of "a twist or fanciful turn of speech" (1594) or "inaccessible hole or crevice" (1562). Popularized 1881 when it was applied to Horace Greeley during Guiteau's trial. The verb meaning "turning a crank" is first attested 1908, with reference to automobile engines.

nuts (adj)

"crazy," 1846, from earlier be nutts upon "be very fond of" (1785), which is possibly from nuts (n., pl.) "any source of pleasure" (1617), from nut (q.v.). Sense influenced probably by metaphoric application of nut to "head" (1846, e.g. to be off one's nut "be insane," 1860). Nut "crazy person, crank" is attested from 1903, (British form nutter first attested 1958). Connection with the slang "testicle" sense has tended to nudge it toward taboo. "On the N.B.C. network, it is forbidden to call any character a nut; you have to call him a screwball." ["New Yorker," Dec. 23, 1950] "Please eliminate the expression 'nuts to you' from Egbert's speech." [Request from the Hays Office regarding the script of "The Bank Dick," 1940] This desire for avoidance accounts for the euphemism nerts (c.1925). Nutty "crazy" is first attested 1898.

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