Category Archives: Language

Barkeep, give me a juice box, neat!

I’ve done a little research and haven’t found the answer to my question, so please help. Where do all the bar/alcohol terms we use come from (like straight, neat, on the rocks…)? And more importantly, are you a rube if you still use them or a rube if you don’t?

Neat?!  Who are you, Sinatra?  While some descriptive is necessary to let the bartender know what you want, I’d only use terms like “neat” ironically.

A good place to learn about the etymology of such words is the Oxford English Dictionary.  Also, Duke Libraries has several excellent slang dictionaries, including Barron’s American slang dictionary and thesaurus and Chambers slang dictionary.

What are these kids listening to today?!

What are you going to do with all that junk, all that junk inside that trunk? [3574A]

[written in answer space:  ima get get get get get you drunk]

Thanks for your assistance, Scribbler.  But don’t forget work; She’s gonna make make make you work.  OK, I was going to launch into a vituperation on the sad state of musical lyrics today, when these lyrics from Led Zeppelin’s The Lemon Song popped into my head:

Squeeze me, babe, ’till the juice runs down my leg
The way you squeeze my lemon
I’m gonna fall right outta bed

Followed by the incredibly enlightened chorus:

Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey
Juice, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby
Hey, babe, babe, babe, babe, oh, no

Well, you get the picture.

Armchair philosophy

will you please explain to me what is “armchair philosophy”?

I’m sure that the designers for the La-Z-Boy company refer to their work using this term. It also refers to a sort of casual and untrained philosophy. You can look upon this in a positive populist manner, or as the work as an amateur (depending, I suppose, on how you view regular philosophers).

Filipino names

Why do Phillipino [crossed out and corrected to Filipino by someone else] people have last names that sound Hispanic, like Hernandez, for example?
[in the same pen as the spelling correction:] A: B/c the Phillipines was once a Spanish colony and their people “got busy.” [3355B]

As the purple-pen person suggests, they were for a long time a Spanish colony. The Spanish introduced (compelled?) the Spanish naming system on the native populace (perhaps this went hand-in-hand with their conversion to Catholicism), but the language itself never seemed to get a foothold.


What is a girasse? [3354B]

Girasse is a conjugation of a verb in a Romance language.  In Portuguese, for instance, girar is roughly along the lines of “to turn around,” and the asse ending creates the first person subjunctive imperfect form, such as “I would have turned,” “I would have been turning,” ‘If I had turned,” “if I were to have been turning,” or some such messiness.  The folks in the Dept. of Romance Languages can surely help you further.

I'll hold up my end

What is the origin of the phrase “I’ll hold up my end”? [3351C]

If you’re carrying a heavy load with another person (e.g., a sofa), each of you is likely to be holding one end of the load, which can’t be carried by one alone. To AP, holding up your end can be extrapolated to doing your part on any project, not being a slacker and not trying to get away with having others do all the work.

Polish name

What is the etymology of the Polish name, Chwialkowski? [3344A]

As you probably know, the ending -owski in Polish is a suffix to tack onto a noun like an occupation, town, or father’s name. Chwial or Chwialk may be a strange form of another word, or a variant spelling (maybe it got messed up when they dropped the diacriticals), but it’s certainly not a form of Polish sausage. I’ll leave it to you to consult a Polish language expert here at Duke.