Feature Word: Spunk

Definition:

a woody tinder : punk -or- spirit, liveliness

Description:

In the 1500s, someone who fought bravely, especially against tough opponents, was thought of as being on fire. The flaring of the human spirit that happened when someone acted bravely was compared to tinder bursting into flames. In Scotland, tinder was often a dry, spongy wood that was called ‘spong’ because it looked like a sponge (‘spong,’ the Scottish Gaelic name for a sponge, developed from the Latin word ‘spongia,’ which also meant ‘sponge’). The image of that spongy wood bursting into flames inspired English speakers to turn ‘spong’ into ‘spunk.’

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Merriam Webster Dictionary - Word of the Day

Skullduggery

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Definition:

Noun.
1. Unscrupulous, deceptive behavior 2. A device used to trick
Alt Spelling: skulduggery
scullduggery, sculduggery
Plural: Skullduggaries

Description:

Skullduggery (spelled with either a “k” or “c” and/or two “l”s) comes from the Scottish word for adultry:  “sculdudrie”.  The word is used in modern parlance as a term for underhanded dealings or trickery, often political in nature.  Ex. The skullduggery that was Watergate.

The word Skullduggery has been used to title various things from a 1970s Burt Reynolds film to the University of Adelaide orientation week, established in 1896.  

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Spunk

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Definition:

a woody tinder : punk -or- spirit, liveliness

Description:

In the 1500s, someone who fought bravely, especially against tough opponents, was thought of as being on fire. The flaring of the human spirit that happened when someone acted bravely was compared to tinder bursting into flames. In Scotland, tinder was often a dry, spongy wood that was called ‘spong’ because it looked like a sponge (‘spong,’ the Scottish Gaelic name for a sponge, developed from the Latin word ‘spongia,’ which also meant ‘sponge’). The image of that spongy wood bursting into flames inspired English speakers to turn ‘spong’ into ‘spunk.’

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Never-Never Land

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Definition:

An imaginary place

Description:

The phrase ‘never-never land’ is linked to a creation of the Scottish playwright Sir James Barrie. In Barrie’s play Peter Pan, first produced in 1904, Peter befriends the real-world children of the Darling family and spirits them off for a visit to Never Land, where children can fly and never have to become adults. In his 1908 play When Wendy Grew Up, Barrie changed the name to Never Never Land, perhaps influenced by already existing ‘never-never’ terms, such as Australia’s ‘never-never country’ (for its sparsely populated desert interior). Even before that, however, people had already begun to refer to a place that was overly idealistic or romantic as a ‘never-never land.’

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Blackmail

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Definition:

meaning the extortion of money by the use of threats, especially threats to reveal secret or embarrassing information, comes from a now obsolete, sense of “mail” meaning “payment” or “tax.” This “mail” came originally from the Old Norse word “mal,” meaning “agreement,” and exists as a word today only in Scots and some dialects in northern England.

Description:

Not surprisingly, the first blackmailers were corrupt politicians, 17th century Scottish chieftains who demanded protection money from local farmers, who refused only at the risk of having their crops destroyed. The ‘mail,’ or payment, was said to be ‘black’ probably because the color black had long been associated with darkness and evil, but it might also have been because payment was usually made in livestock, rather than in silver (which was known as ‘white money’).
The ‘give me two cows or I’ll burn down your farm’ kind of blackmail first appeared in English around 1552, but by the early 1800’s we were using ‘blackmail’ to mean just about any sort of extortion, especially using threats to reveal secrets.

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Argy-Bargy

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Definition:

a lively discussion : argument, dispute

Description:

‘Argy-bargy’ and its slightly older variant ‘argle-bargle’ have been a part of British English since the second half of the 19th century. ‘Argy’ and ‘argle’ evolved in certain English and Scottish dialects as variant forms of ‘argue.’ As far as we can tell, ‘bargy’ and ‘bargle’ never existed as independent words; they only came to life with the compounds as singsong doublings of ‘argy’ and ‘argle.’

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