Get the Hell Outta Dodge

When you turn to your co-conspirator and whisper under your breath, “It might be time to get the hell outta Dodge,” it’s time to leave the premises as soon as possible. If you don’t, you’ll likely get caught committing a crime.

This line comes up in a play I’m currently rehearsing, but “get the hell outta Dodge” isn’t an idiom you hear very often these days. The reason is because it originates from a television show which ran from 1955 – 1975, Gunsmoke.

Set in Dodge City, Kansas, the show featured a marshal named Matt Dillon, who struck fear in the heart of any villainous character who crossed his path. So much so that these criminals would rather flee town than face Dillon.




Disappearing Idioms

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash



Grunt Infantrymen

Right now I am reading Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach, and I started to consider the word grunt and why it’s used to refer to infantrymen in the military. As per usual, I had to do some digging and found that grunt has been used as far back as the early 1900s in reference to a person who does menial, low-level labor. This is not surprising given that grunt is often the type of low, gutteral noise a person makes while performing this type of work.

Grunt was used as military slang during Vietnam and first appeared in print in this context in 1969. It wasn’t until 1977, however, that grunt work was used in print. Some hypotheses on why grunt became widely used in the military is because infantrymen, or grunts, often perform physically demanding, difficult but not mentally challenging menial work. A soldier might also make a grunting sound when shouldering a heavy weapon.

There were many untrained soldiers sent to the front lines in WWII, due to mass casualties. The soldiers brought in were referred to as grunts. There is also an acronym, which most likely came AFTER soldiers were already referred to as grunts – General Replacement UNTrained soldiers – or GRUNTs.

Oftentimes, we see words that started as just words and then were later purported to have been acronyms. For instance, the word fuck is often falsely explained as an acronym for Fornication Under Consent of the King. In fact, the word fuck predates the recorded history of acronyms altogether so there is no possible way it could have begun as an acronym. If you want a military acronym, you can look to SNAFU – Situation Normal All Fucked Up, which is much more entertaining, anyway.

Along my search, I also stumbled upon a new-to-me word, sobriquet. It’s pronounced with a hard t (even though it looks like bouquet, it’s pronounced more like briquette). A sobriquet is a fancy-sounding word for a nickname, something like a grunt, for instance instead of infantrymen.


Grunt – Online Etymology Dictionary

History, Infantry & Sobriquets – Grunts & Co

Photo by Obed Hernández on Unsplash

Is wonky politically correct?

A friend of mine recently expressed concern about her own use of the word wonky. As a teacher she has to be careful of how she uses words around a diverse population of students and she attempts to be politically correct in how she speaks. The last thing she’d want to do is accidentally offend someone.

This makes me think of the word gyp – for example “That movie was such a gyp. I feel like I got ripped off.” In this sense the word gyp is used negatively and the word is a shortened form of gypsy, who are stereotypically known as thieves and con artists. I also hypothesized that she might have an association in her mind with the word honky, which is a derogatory term for white people.

As it turns out the word wonky, meant as unstable, unreliable, or defective does not appear to be derived from any term meant as a slur or insult toward any particular person or group of people. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists it as a “fanciful formation” first used in the early 20th century as an adjective alongside wonkier and wonkiest.

The word wonk, however, when used to refer to a studious or hard-working person, or more specifically someone who takes an excessive interest in the minor details of political policy, is meant as an insult.  In the OED specifically, but not in the US English version, you will also find wonk listed as nautical slang to refer to an incompetent or inexperienced sailor. This word, which is not directly linked to wonky in its origins, was first used in the 1920s. But just to make things confusing, sometimes people use the word wonky or even wonkish to describe someone who is a wonk.

So to return to our original question, is the word wonky insulting to a person or group of people in and of itself? It all comes down to context. If you are using wonky in its more traditional sense as a reference to something unstable, unreliable or defective, you are not necessarily calling to mind a group of politicians squabbling over the minutiae of a new policy. But you might be. I guess it’s just up to you to choose which words you use.


OED Definition of Wonky

OED Definition of Wonk

Grammarist: Wonkish, wonky

Grammarphobia: A wonkish question

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash


A Samoa by Any Other Name

Would a Samoa by any other name taste as sweet? I know this is old news but it comes up almost every year when we pull out our pocketbooks to buy our favorite Girl Scout cookies. Why did the Samoa get renamed to the Caramel Delite? There are several theories on this one (myths to be busted, actually). The myths are more fun and scandalous of course, but the truth is out there and must be shared!

Myth #1: Girl Scouts changed the name because it was offensive to the Samoan people

There is no evidence of this. Besides, who wouldn’t want a delicious cookie named after them? It is theorized that Samoas are named after the island of Samoa because one of the island’s major exports is coconut, one of the cookie’s key ingredients.

Myth #2: Girl Scouts changed the name because Caramel Delite sounds more healthy

Throw “lite” on the end of anything and its diet friendly, right? If you think Girl Scout cookies are healthy in any way, shape or form, you are clearly deluding yourself. If the Girl Scouts wanted to imply that eating cookies was a healthy activity, they would be fighting an uphill battle and losing horribly. But, for shits and giggles, feel free to read this rant I found (not sure if this guy is for real or just trolling but it made me laugh my ass off).

Myth #3: Girl Scouts changed the name

You read that right. The name never changed. Let me repeat that so it sinks in. The name. Never. Changed. Now you might be shouting at your screen insisting that the name did change. You might be yelling that you can’t get your hands on Samoas, that all the Girl Scouts you know only sell Caramel Delites and  that’s wrong and how could they do this to you? What happened is that the Girl Scouts in your area started getting their cookies from a different distributor. The merger of many Girl Scout councils due to a reorganization in 2006 (yes, I know, old news) caused many troops to change which bakery they used.

Samoas can still be purchased, but your girl scout cookie dealer (I mean seller) needs to get her cookies from the right source. There are two companies that are licensed to sell Girl Scout cookies, Little Brownie Bakers (LBB) and ABC Bakers. If her girl scout troop got their cookies from Little Brownie Bakers, she’ll be selling you Samoas. If they got their cookies from ABC Bakers, she’ll be selling you Caramel Delites. Which brings us to (drum roll please…)

Myth #4: Samoas and Caramel Delites are not the same

There is still some debate on this one, including “scientific” studies to determine if the cookies themselves are different in in any significant way. They’re not. The reason they have different names is that they are made by different bakeries. They are made with the same recipe and are the same cookie, just with different names. Many of the other cookies also have different names, as shown below:

ABC[32] LBB[33] Sales[23] Flavor
Thin Mints Thin Mints 25% Thin, mint-flavored chocolate wafers dipped in a chocolatey coating.[34]
Caramel deLites Samoas 19% Vanilla cookies coated in caramel, sprinkled with toasted coconut and laced with chocolatey stripes.[30]
Peanut Butter Sandwich Do-si-dos 16% Peanut butter filling sandwiched between crunchy oatmeal cookies.
Peanut Butter Patties Tagalongs 13% Crispy vanilla cookies layered with Peter Pan peanut butter and covered with a chocolatey coating.
Lemonades 9% Shortbread cookie with lemon icing.
Shortbread Trefoils 7% A traditional shortbread cookie made in the shape of the Girl Scout trefoil.
Thanks-A-Lot 6% Shortbread cookie dipped in fudge with a thank you message.
Savannah Smiles Lemon wedge cookies dusted with powdered sugar.
Girl Scout S’mores Graham cookie double dipped in crème icing and finished with a chocolatey coating.[35]
Girl Scout S’mores Graham sandwich cookies with chocolate and marshmallow filling.[36]
Trios Gluten-free peanut butter oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips.
Toffee-tastic Gluten-free buttery cookies with toffee bits. (Pilot, not offered everywhere.) [37]

Source: Wikipedia

So there you have it. Now shut up and eat your damn cookies!


Sources / Further Reading:

The Crazy Truth About Samoas vs. Caramel Delites

5 Fascinating Facts About Girl Scout Cookie Names


The Polite Puss and the Crude Pussy

The word puss has two separate meanings, one in reference to a cat and the other in reference to the face. The origins of puss as a cat appears to have been borrowed from Middle Low German pūs. However, it may have originated from the calling of cats, saying Psss! to get their attention.

Puss used as slang for mouth or face comes from the Irish bus, meaning lip or mouth.

Other lesser known usages of puss include:

  • An informal reference to a woman or girl, used affectionately. I personally would hate to be called a puss because of its similarity to pussy (see below).
  • Apparently the Brits also use it to mean a hare (a.k.a. rabbit). They call pretty much everything by weird names, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.

For those of you with your minds in the gutter, the word pussy also has two meanings, one in reference to a cat and the other to a woman’s naughty bits. Pussy as cat comes from the Old English pusa, meaning bag – which if you ask me, sounds closer to the other definition of pussy. Pusa was also used to refer to anything soft and cuddly – closer to a cat, but you be the judge of that.

Pussy meaning cunt may come from the Low German pūse (meaning vulva) or the Old Norse púss (meaning pocket or pouch). You could also use it as a reference to a woman, if you’re not being very polite.

So go out there and punch that puss in the puss with a pussy. Or not. You know, whatever suits your fancy. I don’t mean to be offensive here, but words tend to twist and turn their way from polite to crude in an instant.


Note about photo: This is a picture of my ex-roommate’s cat Gizmo, who is a main coon with really creepy toddler-sized eyes.

Origins of “Slap Me Silly”

Like most commonly used phrases, no one is sure exactly where “slap me silly” came from, but my amateur sleuthing has uncovered a few possibilities. One thing is for certain: it most likely originates from our linguistically creative cousins in the talkative Down South. I found a few articles about this which also included several other colorful southern-isms. But let’s stick with this one for now.

“Slap me silly” appears to be one of many variations of the more well-known “Slap my ass and call me Sally.” I don’t know who this Sally person is, but she must be into some BDSM! For giggles, here are a few more variations. The common theme among these is the grammatical structure of “[verb] my [body part] and call me [noun or proper noun].”  The phrases are all used to express a reaction of surprise or astonishment. Below are a few of the more creative ones:

  • Paint me green and call me a cucumber.
  • Slap me with bread and call me a sandwich.
  • Pin my tail and call me a donkey.
  • Fry me in butter and call me a catfish.
  • Saddle my back and call me a horse!
  • Well knock me down and steal my teeth!

Some of these are decidedly more amusing than others, but you get the point. For more Southern-isms, check out this article, which will have you rolling, or at least scratching your head.

On a side note, I must also mention Mike Lange, who is an ice hockey play-by-play broadcaster for the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL. As an avid Chicago Blackhawks fan, the last thing I want to do is draw attention to the Penguins, but this guy also has some fun variations, from “Get in the fast lane, Grandma, the bingo game’s ready to roll!” to “Scratch my back with a hacksaw!” I stumbled upon Langeisms while searching for “slap me silly” (a phrase he also uses frequently), and there are plenty more of his fun phrases here.

I also happened upon a cool blog during my search that I’ve decided to follow: Strong Language (A Sweary Blog About Swearing).

Thanks for reading, and let me know if there are any other phrases you want to know more about. I am definitely not a professional at this whole etymology thing (but I’m smart enough to use a fancy word like etymology). And I like this stuff because I’m a huge word nerd.


Bread & Butter

When I was kid, my mom and I would often walk on either side of a pole and then say “bread and butter” when we came back together on the other side. Today, while we were driving, she brought it up, asking “I wonder where that comes from?” Immediately, I decided to find out.

Turns out this “bread and butter” tradition dates back to at least the 1920s, if not earlier. It is a superstition that if a couple (either romantic or friends) is broken apart during their walk by either another person or another object, they must say “bread and butter” when they meet up again, or they are doomed to have a conflict later on. The thought is that bread and butter go together, and that bread, once buttered, cannot be “unbuttered.”

Although my family has only ever used “bread and butter” in this way, people have also used “salt and pepper” in this superstition.


Source: Signs and Superstitions Collected from American College Girls, published by American Folklore Society in 1923

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