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, given the phrase’s origins.

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.

Etymology of ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ not so square after all

Oh, how often those ridiculed as puny, studious or unfashionable bear the brunt of such names as dweeb, geek and nerd. But has anyone ever wondered about the origins of these words or even contemplated that, originally, geek actually meant the opposite of what it means today?

Fill the bill: Avoid folk etymology and the rest will follow

Expressions fascinate me. There must surely be cultural influences that shape the development, as well as the nuances of, language. I’m always happy when I uncover the origins of yet another idiom, and I’m always dismayed when I see someone misusing and/or misspelling that same idiom.