Familiar terms, unfamiliar origins

A penny for your gazette?

In ancient times, rulers of nations used to rely on couriers for news. Then, around 1550, a printed news sheet or tabloid was circulated for the first time in Venice - a forerunner of the modern newspaper. "Small, crude, and inexpensive," historians called it. It was especially popular among merchants who wanted to know the status of any occupied territories along their trading routes. A single copper coin might buy a copy or pay for a read-aloud. The coin used for that purpose was a gazzetta, in Italian, and the word for the coin was passed along to the news sheet itself. The first official court newspaper bearing the name was the Oxford Gazette (1642).

The causes of chauvinism

Nicolas Chauvin of Rochefort was a loyal soldier of the French Republic and empire. He was well-known by his contemporaries for his fervent and bellicose devotion to his peerless leader, Napoleon I. Chauvin was one of the true patriots remaining after Napoleon's defeat and was eventually ridiculed for his high regard for his banished hero. Over the years his name came to mean not only excessive patriotism and fanatical worship, but also passionate partiality to any cause or group.

Comfortable in a limousine

Limousin was one of the original provinces in west-central France before the French Revolution. After the war, the province was broken up. However, 'Limousin' remained in the language through an article of clothing. The people of Limousin, especially cart drivers or wagoners, used to wear a dark hooded cloak of wool or goat's hair called a limousine. When automobiles arrived in the late 1800s, the limousine became known as an enclosed car in which passengers are protected under a hood.

Sources: The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, by Robert Hendrickson; The Second Kids' World Almanac of Records and Facts; The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, by Robert Barnhart; The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, by William and Mary Morris; Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, by Ivor Evans; A Browser's Dictionary, by John Ciardi; Webster's Word Histories.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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