Monday, November 12, 2012

Word of the Week - What

Whistler's Harmony of Pink and Gray - 1881
Yes, I chose it because of the year and its prettiness,
not because of any other relevance. ;-)

I know, right? You're thinking "Her word of the week is what? Seriously? This chick is losing it..." ;-) But hopefully you'll read on to see what in the world inspired me to write about what, LOL.

Last week as I was editing an upcoming WhiteFire title, I read a line where one of the characters says "What's up?" The year is 1921, the phrase sounds modern to me, so I thought I had better look it up (even though I trust this author implicitly, things slip by us all, right?) So I tapped what into the etymology dictionary and found quite a few idioms that were older than I'd thought!

The word as a question, as a "What did you say?" dates all the way back to 1300. That doesn't really surprise me. But I was quite surprised to see that "what's-his-name" dates from 1690! I would have thought that a more modern phrase, personally. (The variant "what's-his-face," though, is from the 1960s, LOL.)

The phrase "what for," as in "give him the what-for" is from 1873, which apparently, interestingly, came about as a smart reply to people asking the question "What for?" 

And finally, the one I was looking up. "What's up?" made its debut right around 1881. Which did surprise me a bit, I confess. It didn't give me any idea where it came from (like that handy explanation of the what-for...) but it's always so much fun to discover a use is older than I anticipated!

I hope everyone has a lovely week!

1 comment: