Thursday, January 04, 2007

Gordon Bennett! That plonker is a bit of a mucky pup

This story appeared in today's WaPo
Oxford Editors Are No Wazzocks, Putting Public to Work on Words
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, January 4, 2007; A13

LONDON, Jan. 3 -- According to the august Oxford English Dictionary, going bananas was simply not done before 1968, nobody went bonkers before 1957 and no one went to the loo before 1940.

But the publishers of the 600,000-word reference book, billed as "the definitive record of the English language," are willing to be proved wrong. So they are asking language-loving British television viewers to help them trace the murky etymological roots of 40 common English-language expressions, from "wolf whistle" to "regime change" to "sick puppy."

Oxford University Press, the publisher, is teaming up with "Balderdash & Piffle," a BBC television lexicology program, to run down the origins of such acutely British expressions as "wally" (a fool), "wazzock" (an idiot) and "whoopsie" (excrement). As far as the dictionary's 400-plus researchers have been able to make out, crazy people became "daft as a brush" in 1945 and "one sandwich short of a picnic" in 1993.
Here is The Wordhunt list from the BBC
  1. dog and bone 1961 (Rhyming slang for the telephone)
  2. the dog's bollocks 1989 (A cruder version of the bee’s knees)
  3. mucky pup 1984 (A habitually untidy person)
  4. shaggy dog story 1946 (Origin unknown or uncertain: a long and pointless yarn)
  5. sick puppy 1984 (Affectionate name for a weirdo)
  6. plonker 1966 (A foolish or inept person)
  7. prat 1968 (Origin unknown or uncertain: an old word but a fairly recent insult)
  8. tosser 1977 (An insult, but not an example of unparliamentary language?)
  9. wally 1969 (A put down named after Walter?)
  10. wazzock 1984 (An insult of Northern origin?)
  11. domestic 1963 (A household argument requiring police intervention)
  12. glamour model 1981 (A topless or nude model)
  13. loo 1940 (Origin unknown or uncertain: the privy, lavatory or small room)
  14. regime change 1990 (A euphemism for overthrowing a hostile foreign government)
  15. whoopsie 1973 (A synonym for “number two” or “poo-poo”)
  16. flip-flop 1970 (The rhythmic rubber sandal)
  17. hoodie 1990 (A hooded sweatshirt and sometimes the person inside it)
  18. shell-suit 1989 (A lightweight tracksuit)
  19. stiletto 1959 (A shoe with a pointy heel)
  20. trainer 1978 (The sports shoe)
  21. dogging 1993 (Origin unknown or uncertain: the illicit nocturnal carpark activity)
  22. kinky 1959 (Perverted or sexually adventurous, depending on your point of view)
  23. marital aid 1976 (A euphemism for a sex toy)
  24. pole dance 1992 (A form of entertainment often found in strip clubs)
  25. wolf-whistle 1952 (A distinctive expression of approval)
  26. bananas 1968 (Origin unknown or uncertain: as in "going bananas" - to go wild or crazy)
  27. bonkers 1957 (Origin unknown or uncertain: a synonym for crackers, nuts or doolally)
  28. daft (or mad) as a brush 1945 (Origin unknown or uncertain: a bit loopy)
  29. duh brain 1997 (A playground taunt, synonymous with "thicko")
  30. one sandwich short of a picnic 1993 (An inventive euphemism for mental incapacity)
  31. Bloody Mary 1956 (Origin unknown or uncertain: the popular “morning after” cocktail)
  32. Gordon Bennett! 1967 (Origin unknown or uncertain: a versatile exclamation, usually of surprise)
  33. Jack the Lad 1981 (A chancer, normally a brash young man)
  34. round robin 1988 (The festive family newsletter)
  35. take the mickey 1948 (Origin unknown or uncertain: to make fun of a person or thing.)
  36. bung 1958 (Origin unknown or uncertain: a bribe, not a bottle-stopper.)
  37. Glasgow kiss 1987 (A colourful term for a head-butt)
  38. identity theft 1991 (To fraudulently aquire and use personal information)
  39. spiv 1934 (Origin unknown or uncertain: a wide boy, or dodgy character)
  40. twoc 1990 (An acronym for taking without consent)

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