Garden garble

'Toady': Want fries with that?

The 19th-century expression comes from a toad eater. Yes, one who eats toads! While frogs have long been considered a gastronomic delicacy, all toads were thought to be poisonous at one time. But they were useful in 17th-century medicine shows that featured an assistant who'd eat one (or pretend to) so that his swindling master could demonstrate the curative powers of his elixirs. Toad-eater became toady, which now means a sycophant who does distasteful things to gain favor.

The misunderstood woodchuck

The New England woodchuck, or Marmota monax, has no connection with wood whatsoever, despite the popular jingle. Its name derives from the Cree Indian word wuchuk or otchcok, a fisher, which North American settlers corrupted to woodchuck and applied mistakenly to the groundhog.

SOURCES: 'Thereby Hangs a Tale,' by Charles Funk; 'The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins,' by Robert Hendrickson; 'Why You Say It,' by Webb Garrison; 'Who Put the Butter in Butterfly?' by David Feldman.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK