from TED

Attention word nerds: 13 mysteries of the vernacular, solved

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick

Before a ‘clue’ became a thing that excited a detective, the word referred to a ball of yarn. So how did this shift in meaning occur? Because in Greek mythology, Ariadne threw a ball of yarn to Theseus before he entered the minotaur’s labyrinth. Theseus unrolled the yarn behind him as he traveled into the deadly maze — then used it to find his way out.

And you’ll find lots more of it in the TED-Ed series Mysteries of the Vernacular, from Jessica Oreck and Rachael Teel.

  1. What the word gorgeous has to do with turtlenecks
  2. How the word window came from a clever metaphor
  3. The strange derivation of the tuxedo
  4. How Alfred Nobel invented dynamite
  5. Why venom once meant ‘something to be desired’
  6. The riddle of the word earwig
  7. Why the word inaugurate is for the birds
  8. How noise, nausea and naval are all related
  9. The story of the word pants
  10. Why the origin of the word miniature isn’t so small
  11. What a hearse was before a vehicle for the dead
  12. The word assassin’s roots in hash
  13. And, as previously mentioned, why you could once knit with a clue

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