Mon 12 May, 2003 08:15 pm
There have been many outright hoaxes about etymological origin on"the internet, from the **** = fornication under consent of the king to some that are genuine mistakes.
Etymology is a strange bird, I once wondered as a child if "beating around the bush" came from hunting rabbits with clubs. Had I not replaced that theory as a teenager with the one in which I thought it was procrastination in sex (or foreplay) I might have been guilty of making something up too.
There are many reasons for false etymology to spread, sometimes it is a cruel joke (e.g. handicap = hand in cap) and sometimes the false etymology just made enough sense to spread.
I'll post some famous examples of false etymology here.
Many thought that this word was found in the OED, they are partially correct. It is found but not in the modern use (with the meaning of ejaculate or achieve orgasm).
The OED simply listed the latin preposition.
Craven, Interesting topic. I was burned recently in another thread. Hit the hay. I had a source, but the source was clearly mistaken. Not a nautical derivation at all.
I'm looking forward to hearing more about this topic. I find it tres interesting.
Etty Mology isn't my aunt?
One of my favorites, which I just found out was false (if etymonline's site is correct) is the origin of "On the wagon." I heard that this phrase came into use during the burning of the Catholic martyrs in London -- people from all around would go to see the burnings, stop on the way for a beer at "The Swan" (or many other pubs, I'm sure), and because the ladies weren't allowed in the pub, one man had to stay on the wagon with them while the rest of the men went to drink. And that obviously is where "off the wagon" was supposed to originate, as well. etymonline's site states that the phrase was originally "on the water cart."