What is etymology? Where do English words, phrases and expressions come from? What factors shaped the development of our language? Why are some words pronounced or spelled the way the are? Posts here explore these topics and more.

A fool’s errand: uncovering the origins of “elbow grease”

Someone close to me once worked at a hardware store. I recall his telling me about a family combing the aisles and growing very flustered. Asked what they were looking for, the family replied, “Elbow grease”. Unfortunate but not that surprising that they had taken this common expression literally and embarked on a fool’s errand,…

Nose to the grindstone: hard at work on folk etymology

Not too long along, I asked my Twitter followers to hit me up with common expressions, idioms and colloquialisms that mention a part of the body. Many weighed in, and I thought it a good idea to put my nose to the grindstone to uncover where many of these turns of phrase originate.


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Get the latest updates delivered right to your inbox.