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Jewish World Review Sept. 8, 2004 / 22 Elul, 5764

Editors of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
Dictionary, Tenth Edition

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'Adam's apple'; 'You sure lucked out'; 'the lion's share' | Dear Editor:

Can you tell me why the Adam's apple has that name?

—J. Z., Huntsville, Ala.

Dear J. Z.:

The term ``Adam's apple'' is not nearly as old as the English names of most parts of the body. It first appeared in the 18th century, when it was used to translate, quite literally, the Latin name for that projecting cartilage in the throat, ``pomum Adami.'' Latin had earlier translated it from a post-Biblical form of Hebrew, where the name was ``tappuach ha adham,'' meaning ``bodily projection on a man.'' Unfortunately for the Latin translators, the Hebrew phrase had a double meaning: ``tappuach'' also means ``apple'' and ``adham'' can be interpreted as the name of the Biblical first man.

So it was assumed that the name referred to the fall of man from innocence into sin through eating the forbidden fruit of Eden (not, incidentally, called an apple in the Bible), as if the projecting cartilage were a morsel that had stuck in Adam's throat and could not be choked down.

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Dear Editor:

When something very good happens to someone, why do people say ``You sure lucked out''? To me that sounds as though the good luck ran out, but of course they mean that the person was very lucky. Please explain.

—R. J., Eau Claire, Wis.

Dear R. J.:

The problem is just that this use of ``out'' has the wrong association for you. Instead of reminding you of ``run out,'' it should bring up phrases like ``sketch out the plan'' or ``write out the speech,'' phrases where the ``out'' has no real separate meaning but merely intensifies the meaning of the verb. ``Out'' is used with many verbs in this way. The ``out'' of ``run out,'' on the other hand, has a meaning of its own - ``to a point of exhaustion or depletion'' - which is also found in phrases like ``talked themselves out,'' ``all cried out,'' and ``pump the well out.''

By the way, you don't have to ``luck out''; the verb ``luck'' also occurs with ``into'' and ``onto,'' as in these examples: ``I lucked into a better job than the one I used to have'' and ``the prospectors lucked onto a vein of gold.'' All of these verbal uses of ``luck'' occur chiefly in American English.

— — —

Dear Editor:

Can you tell me whether the expression ``the lion's share'' means the largest portion or the entire thing?

—T. L., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Dear T. L.:

In some circumstances, of course, there may be no difference. A real lion (like the 400-pound gorilla of the familiar joke who sits wherever he wants to) can presumably have as much as is desired, up to and including the whole thing. And it should be mentioned that in the fable of Aesop from which this expression is derived, the lion gets one quarter of the prey for his royal prerogative as king of beasts, one quarter for his superior courage, one quarter to give to his mate and their cubs, and one quarter because he dares the other animals to challenge him for it and they slink away.

As ``the lion's share'' is used figuratively of human beings, however, it ordinarily means ``the largest share'' and not necessarily the whole thing. This recent example from our files is typical: ``It was his life, rather than his art, that commanded the lion's share of attention.''

— — —

Dear Editor:

Whenever my wife and I dress up for a night on the town, I say that we're ``putting on the dog.'' Can you tell me where this unusual expression comes from?

—B. N., Newport, R.I.

Dear B. N.:

The phrase ``putting on the dog'' can actually be traced back to the 19th century, when college students at Yale are said to have worn high stiff collars known as ``dog collars'' as part of required dress on formal occasions. This custom may account for the use of the phrase ``put on the dog'' to mean ``get dressed up in elegant finery.'' The following excerpt from the 1871 work ``Four Years at Yale'' offers confirmation. ``Dog (means) style, splurge. To put on dog is to make a flashy display, to cut a swell.'' Of course, the expression may have existed before collegians put on the dog (in which case some other long forgotten custom may account for the phrase), but we have no earlier example of the phrase.

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09/02/04: 'King's shilling'; 'Stockholm syndrome'; 'amid the alien corn'
08/24/04: Guacamole = avocados?; 'bona fides' needs plural verb?; 'exact same' redundant?
08/17/04: 'Nosey parker'; where the question mark came from?; why 'wash' doesn't rhyme with 'cash'
08/12/04: 'Vexillologist'; 'fifth column'; 'Homer sometimes nods'
08/05/04: 'Spitting image'; 'eclectic'; 'spendthrift'
07/28/04: 'Trousers'; 'argosy'
07/19/04: 'Sourdough wit'; 'headshrinkers'; 'seventh heaven'
07/08/04: 'The proof is in the pudding'; 'Pyrrhic victory'
07/01/04: Origin of 'vitamin'; 'binnacle list'
06/25/04: 'Abnegate' and 'abdicate'; 'feet of clay'; 'difugalty'
06/17/04: 'Whinge'; 'whole cloth'
06/10/04: 'The devil to pay'; 'crack', as in 'a crack marksman'; 'the dog that didn't bark'
06/03/04: 'Surrounded on three sides'; sleuths
05/18/04: 'Of the first water'; horses and horseradish; more
05/06/04: 'Historic' v. 'historical'; 'prestigious' = 'trickery'?; 'can of corn' as sports phrase
04/27/04: Derivation of 'bozo'; 'elt'; 'spill the beans'
04/21/04: Meaning of "budget'' in the word "fussbudget''; "bleeding hearts''; "skycap''
04/01/04: "Thin red line''; "doak"; "level playing field"
03/22/04: "King Canute"; "vodka"; "Cheese it. The cops!''
03/16/04: "Carrot and stick''; "hue and cry''; Where did the term "flea market'' originate?
03/09/04: Going "haywire"; "close, but no cigar"; "mahatma"
03/01/04: "Roundheel'' and "well-heeled''; "milquetoast"; "sick as a dog''
02/26/04: "Charley horse"; "`Foolproof''; "cracker-barrel''
02/17/04: "Dunce''; titles "Mr.'' and "Mrs.''; "under the weather''
02/10/04: "Turnpike''; "dead reckoning''
02/02/04: "Mutt"; "lobby" in its political sense; "procrustean bed"
01/27/04: "Decimate"; "duende"; a dessert "junket"?
01/14/04: Is "MacGuffin" related to all the "Mac" and "Mc" words we've been hearing about recently?; "afghans" and "Afghans"; "since Hector was a pup"
01/09/04: Confused about the word "hearsay"; "Burgle"; "waiting in line" or "waiting on line"?
12/31/03: The past tense of "plead''; Is "old adage'' redundant?; Where did "lounge lizard'' come from?
12/15/03: "Ostracize" and "oyster''?; Where does the "mentor'' come from?; "jeopard''
12/02/03: "Karats'' and "carats'' — meaning of and difference between; why apostrophe in "'cello''?; "hell-bent for leather''
11/18/03: "Hoosegow,''; why the little finger is called the "`pinkie''; difference between "lady'' and "dame''
11/13/03: 'Take it on the lam'; 'decorum'; 'you look like the wreck of the Hesperus'
11/03/03: Origin of "hypnosis"/"hypnotism"; "all right" or "alright"; emote
10/28/03: "Blue plate special"; how to use "hoi polloi''; "Peck's Bad Boy''
10/20/03: Who was the person the artist who first used "silhouette" as an art form?; why are they called migraine headaches?; origin of "keep one's shirt on"
10/13/03: "Grey'' in "greyhound'' has nothing to do with the color?; "at loggerheads''
09/29/03: Where does the word "karaoke" comes from?; people or persons?; "synecdoche"
09/23/03: Using "eke'' correctly; fedora; why do we call an especially flattering biography a "hagiography''?
09/10/03: Why do we call a zero score in tennis "love''?; "biannual'' or "semiannual''?; Is there any difference between "further'' and "farther''?; dilemma of using "dilemma''
09/02/03: "Out loud'' rather than "aloud''; "pushing the envelope''; "without rhyme or reason''
08/25/03: "Cheesy''; "hold a candle''
08/11/03: "Halcyon days''; Why isn't "sacrilegious'' spelled "sacreligious''?; "red light'' and "green light'' as expression — which came first, the inaction or the signals?
08/04/03: "Votive'' candles; "cosmeticizing"; "potluck''
07/28/03: Why ‘debt’ has a ‘b’ in it; "south moon under''; why "Rx'' is used for prescriptions
07/21/03: "Romance" & "Rome"?; punching & clocks; "conversate"
07/14/03: "Lukewarm''; Where did we get the word "wig'' for a fake head of hair?
07/09/03: Why doesn't "Arkansas'' rhyme with "Kansas''? ; "Catawampus"; "Jimmie Higgins work"
06/30/03: "Foozle"; author who wrote an entire novel without using a certain letter of the alphabet?; "kith and kin"
06/23/03: "On the fritz"; "knuckle down''
06/17/03: How did "lazy Susan'' come to be used for the rotating tray?; woolgathering'' as synonym for "idle daydreaming''; "in harm's way''
06/09/03: "Clotheshorse"; a god named "Ammonia"?
05/29/03: With kid gloves; "receipt'' = "recipe''?; from soup to nuts

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