Where Does "Pineapple" Come From? The Origins Of These Common Words & Phrases Might Surprise You — VIDEO
If you're anything like me, you spend a lot of time thinking about the origins of words. Nerdy, I know, but linguistics is actually super interesting, especially when you use it to explain common expressions we still use today. Luckily for us, the awesome people over at Life Noggin recently created a video delving into where some of our most common phrases come from and why we continue to use them even now. Now, most people are unlikely to dramatically change their vocabulary, but learning about the history of our language helps us better contextualize our words in history, and what phrases or word choices may have politically charged or sensitive backgrounds — or heck, even just funny ones.
No matter what language (or languages) you speak, one thing is for certain: Languages are constantly evolving. They mold to reflect the lives and situations of people at the time, which is why we're still adding words to the dictionary, for example. Evolving language is powerful because it can come to reflect social and political shifts in our histories, even if we aren't entirely cognizant of what the long-term impact will be as things are happening in the moment. Pretty fascinating, right? Even if you aren't quite as into the history of words as I am, definitely check out the origins of these five phrases below, and be sure to scroll down to check out the full video from Life Noggin, too!
1. Your Favorite Fruit: "Pineapple"
Ah, pineapples. Juicy, delicious fruits we frequently find in smoothies and breakfast bowls. At first glance, picking apart the word "pineapple" is actually pretty hilarious. Originally, pineapples were referred to as "ananas" (which means "excellent fruit" in Tupi), but when English speakers got a hold of them back in 1493, they changed the name to something that made more sense to them: "Pine," for pine tree, which English speakers got by comparing the spikiness of the fruit to the spikiness of pine trees and cones, plus "apple," another fruit we often enjoy. Looking at a pineapple, one can kind of see how it resembles a pine tree, while still being sweet and juicy like an apple. If that train of thought makes sense to you, you're not alone!
2. "A Dime A Dozen"
I'm sure we've all heard the phrase "a dime a dozen," which in my own use, usually refers to something really, really cheap. I can't think of any single item that you can purchase with one dime these days, never mind a dozen of something for a dime. However, back in the 1800s, you could purchase items for literally a dime a dozen. Cheap items, such as eggs and fruit, were sold by the dozen for about 10 cents each.
3. "Cheap As Chips"
Prior to checking this video, I'd actually never heard this phrase before, but it makes perfect sense. Following in a similar vein to "a dime a dozen," the phrase "cheap as chips" refers to, well, an item being super cheap. From what I do know about English cuisine, French fries (or "chips") are a common side to a lot of meals, and pretty inexpensive to make or purchase. Similar to the phrase "a dime a dozen," people in the United Kingdom continue to use this phrase for its connotative meaning of something being super inexpensive, as well as readily available and easy to get.
4. "Bite The Bullet"
In my own experience, the phrase "bite the bullet" refers to having to do something you really don't want to do. Basically, the time has come to get down to the hard stuff and you can't ignore it anymore, so you have to "bite" the "bullet" and get on with it. The origins of the phrase actually have a slightly creepier root: Back in the day, doctors would ask patients wounded during battle to simply bite down on a literal bullet during surgery if anesthia was not available. The first recorded use of it is from 1891.
5. "Beat Around The Bush"
Whenever I've heard the phrase "beat around the bush," it's actually when someone is avoiding a topic of conversation or having a hard time getting to the "point" of the matter. Often, I think this phrase is associated with bad news or telling something you're pretty sure they don't want to hear. Historically, the meaning still roots in avoidance, but the actual scenario is pretty different: It's an English phrase, and refers to hunting animals. Basically, when you go hunting, you want to create noise in the brush to scare animals out into the open. A timid or unwilling hunter tends to "beat around the bush" to pretend they're finding the animal, but not actually do so.
So, there you have it! Etymology is super cool stuff. Even if the new knowledge doesn't make a huge impact on your regular usage of certain words of phrases, it's always good to know where things come from and how they became contextualized into our vocabularies. It's also good to know if you and your friends ever play trivia.
You can check out the full video from Life Noggin here!