Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Catherine H. etymologies 22-25


1656, "a drawing of the outline of anything," from It. profilo "a drawing in outline," from profilare "to draw in outline," from pro- "forth" + filare "draw out, spin," from L.L. filare "to spin, draw out a line," from filum "thread." Meaning "biographical sketch, character study" is from 1734. The verb is 1715, "to represent in profile," from the noun. Meaning "to summarize a person in writing" is from 1948. Profiling in the racial/ethnic stereotyping sense is recorded from c.1991.


O.E. hors, from P.Gmc. *khursa- (cf. O.N. hross, O.Fris. hors, M.Du. ors, Du. ros, O.H.G. hros, Ger. Roß "horse"), of unknown origin, connected by some with PIE base *kurs-, source of L. currere "to run" (see current). Replaced O.E. eoh, from PIE *ekwo- "horse" (cf. Gk. hippos, L. equus, O.Ir. ech, Goth. aihwa-, Skt. açva-, all meaning "horse"). In many other languages, as in O.E., this root has been lost in favor of synonyms, probably via superstitious taboo on uttering the name of an animal so important in I.E. religion. Used since at least 1391 of various devices or appliances which suggest a horse (e.g. sawhorse). To ride a horse that was foaled of an acorn (1678) was through early 19c. a way to say "be hanged from the gallows." Slang for heroin is first attested 1950. Horseplay is from 1589. The belief that finding a horseshoe by chance is lucky is attested from late 14c. Horse latitudes first attested 1777, the name of unknown origin, despite much speculation. Dead horse as a figure for "something that has ceased to be useful" is attested from 1638. High horse originally (c.1380) was "war horse, charger;" fig. sense in mount (one's) high horse "affect airs of superiority" is from 1782. The horse's mouth as a source of reliable information is from 1928, perhaps from the fact that a horse's age can be determined accurately by looking at its teeth. To swap horses while crossing the river (a bad idea) is first attested 1864 in writings of Abraham Lincoln. Horse sense is 1870, Amer.Eng. colloquial, probably from the same association of "strong, large, coarse" found in horseradish. Horse and buggy meaning "old-fashioned" is recorded from 1926 slang, originally in ref. to a "young lady out of date, with long hair." The proverbial gift horse was earlier given horse:

"No man ought to looke a geuen hors in the mouth." [Heywood, 1546]

The modern form perhaps traces to Butler's "Hudibras" (1663), where the tight iambic tetrameter required a shorter phrase:

He ne'er consider'd it, as loth
To look a Gift-horse in the mouth.


1593, "a 'vocal gesture' expressing the action of puffing anything away" [OED], first attested in Hamlet Act I, Scene III, where Polonius addresses Ophelia with, "Affection! pooh! you speak like a green girl, / Unsifted in such perilous circumstance. / Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?" But the "vocal gesture" is perhaps ancient. Among the many 19th century theories of the origin of language was the Pooh-pooh theory (1860), which held that language grew from natural expressions of surprise, joy, pain, or grief. The slang reduplicated verb pooh-pooh "to dismiss lightly and contemptuously" is attested from 1827. Pooh as baby-talk for "excrement" is from 1950s (cf. poop (n.2)).


c.1225, from O.Fr. coart, from coe "tail," from L. coda, dialectal variant of cauda "tail," of uncertain origin + -ard, an agent noun suffix (denoting "one who does"). The word probably reflects an animal metaphoric sense still found in expressions like turning tail and tail between legs. Coart was the name of the hare in O.Fr. versions of "Reynard the Fox." As a surname (attested from 1255) it represents O.E. cuhyrde "cow-herd."

"Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination." [Ernest Hemingway, "Men at War," 1942]

An O.E. word for "cowardly" was earg, which also meant "slothful."

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