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Origin of Ushers

Why doesn’t an usher ush? The word goes all the way back to Latin os, meaning “mouth,” and its derivative ostium, meaning “door.” An usher was originally a servant in charge of letting people in and out of a door. This...

Etymology of Nanny Charges

A young woman who works as a nanny wants to know why the term charge is used to refer to the youngsters she cares for. Charge goes back to a Latin root meaning, “to carry,” and it essentially has to do with being responsible for...

Dean Of vs. Dean For

When it comes to job titles, the prepositions of and for can seem interchangeable and arbitrary, but they mean slightly different things. Of, as in a Dean of Student Conduct, is in charge of a particular area by themselves, whereas a Vice President...

Origin of Sommelier

A wine expert with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and a minor in French wonders about the origin of the term sommelier. It shares a root with sumpter, meaning “pack animal.” Sommelier used to refer generally to the person in...

Not-So-Petty Officers

Why are non-commissioned Naval officers called petty officers? After all, there’s nothing petty about them. The term comes from the French “petit,” meaning “under, less than, or ranking below in a hierarchy.” Petty...