A sixth-grade teacher in San Antonio, Texas, is skeptical about a story that gringo derives from a song lyric. He’s right. The most likely source of this word is the Spanish word for “Greek,” griego, a term applied to foreigners much the same way that English speakers might say that an unintelligible language is Greek to me. The ancient Greeks, on the other hand, imitated the sound of foreigners with the word barbaroi, the source of our own word barbarian. This is part of a complete episode.
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- Boss of Me 06/17/2017: If you want to be a better writer, try skipping today's bestsellers, and read one from the 1930's instead. Or read something besides fiction in... [more]
- Sunny-Side Up 06/10/2017: Baseball has a language all its own: On the diamond, a snow cone isn't what you think it is, and three blind mice has nothing... [more]
- Naked as a Jaybird 06/05/2017: What's the best way for someone busy to learn lots of new words quickly for a test like the GRE? Looking up their origins can... [more]
- Hot Dog, Cold Turkey 05/29/2017: Why do we call a frankfurter a hot dog? It seems an unsettling 19th-century rumor is to blame. Also, if someone quits something abruptly, why... [more]