Issue 149, page 2
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We must admit that our first reaction was "of course not" then we discovered where the confusion may have arisen.
Hymn comes from the Latin hymnus - a word meaning "a song or ode in praise of gods or heroes". A letter y (the Roman form of the Greek letter upsilon) in a Latin word is a sure sign that it was borrowed from Greek. In this case the original word was hymnos. While it has only one letter different, hymen, the medical term for the maidenhead, comes from a different Greek word - hymen[os], "a thin skin, a membrane". Linguists derive this from the Indo-European root *syu-.
However, Hymen with a capital H was the name of the Greek and Roman god of marriage, usually depicted as a young man bearing a torch. In classical Greek, a hymn addressed to this god was called a hymenaios but in later Greek this was abbreviated to hymen. In the early 17th century, some English writers alluded to this classical meaning and used hymen as a poetic synonym for "wedding song". So, although hymn doesn't come from hymen, some hymns were called hymens, sometimes.
The Indo-European root *syu- is believed to be the common ancestor of sew, seam, suture, couture, the Latin subulus ("an awl") and Sanskrit sutra ("a thread"). Some readers may be familiar with the use of sutra to mean "treatise", as in the Kama Sutra ("Treatise on Desire"). The reason lies in the construction of ancient Indian books. Each page was a long strip of sturdy palm leaf with a hole near either end. Through the holes ran two strings (sutra) which held the book together. A class of later Indian works called themselves tantras, probably as a word-play on sutra - whereas sutra means "thread", tantra means "weave" or "weft".
Actually, it is there but only in its British form (try looking under bogy ). Hey, there's an idea for a song: "You say booger; I say it's not..."
Now that we've looked up bogy (meaning "nasal mucus"), we see that the OED attributes its origin to the bogy which means "devil". As regular readers will know, this bogy is related the Welsh bwg and also to Puck, the spirit of the forest. The OED offers no explanation for the connection to nasal mucus and we are beginning to wonder if it has a sound basis. Readers?
Just for the record, Mike says that in South Wales it's a boogy (pronounced as in boogie-woogie).
Actually, the -wife in alewife has its original meaning of "woman". In days of yore, every household brewed its own beer and the brewer was usually the lady of the house. Consequently, when beer was made for public consumption it was often women (alewives) who made it.
In 1587, William Harrison published his "Description of England", which includes a detailed description his wife's brewing techniques. The Harrisons' beer would probably taste odd to modern palates as, in addition to hops, it was flavored with "orris [= violet root] and bayberries" which they much preferred to long pepper, another common ale additive of the time. Harrison also mentions honey-based liquor called metheglin "whereof the Welshmen make no less account (and not without cause) than the Greeks did of their ambrosia and nectar". He clearly distinguished this elegant elixir from the "kind of swish-swash made... with honeycombs and water, which the homely country wives, putting a little pepper and other spices among, call mead". This latter, opined Harrison, was "very good for such as love to be loose-bodied at large and a little eased of the cough".
The alewife fish (a member of the herring family) takes its name from its remarkably large belly. Apparently, this reminded New England fishermen of the capacious abdomens of lady brewers.
Yes, we think 1961 is the earliest on record:
One must assume, however, that it must have been widely understood before this date as we suspect that Providence, Rhode Island was not the origin of this term. We have no clue, as yet, which bar dreamed up the term but its origin is obvious - the patrons are happy because they have cheap booze.
But that's not the whole story. In the late 1800s, members of the theatrical profession in England used the term happy hours as rhyming-slang for "flowers". This implies the prior existence of happy hours as a commonly understood phrase. [But meaning what? - M&M]
No, it's not an everyday word here. Snafu originated in the allied forces in the second World War but the word seems to be enjoying a comeback after being a minor theme in the movie "Saving Private Ryan". And, yes, this is a rare case of a real acronym - several acronyms (e.g. radar, sonar) come from military usage.
An extreme form of snafu is fubar (= Fouled* Up Beyond All Recognition). For some reason, fubar, foobar, foo and bar are commonly used as "nonsense" names in computer training classes.
* We fully appreciate the possibility of an alternative to fouled. - M&M
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