Words of mouth


Years ago, if you stayed at an inn for more than a few days, you'd be called a boarder. Why is that?

Early inns did not "serve" their meals. Instead they offered dining from a long, hand-hewn board laid across trestles. Innkeepers heaped food on the board and let their guests dig in. There was no menu; guests simply paid a flat fee for a place "at the board."

By the 15th century, demand was on the rise, and innkeepers began selling board space by the week. This practice led to the label "boarder" for any regular guest at the inn.

Eventually, "boarding houses" were established which, years ago, were found in nearly every town and city across the United States.


Especially when made with fish or fowl, a stew or soup may contain a few tooth-jarring bones that cause even a hungry diner to pause. It was such a common occurrence that, by 1450, a person making objections of any kind was said to be "finding bones."

On the other hand, to do or say something without hesitation, or "to make no bones," comes from the diner who throws caution to the wind, and makes no fuss over a sliver or two.


That mystery beverage served at junior proms and parties is not so named because it packs a punch. The drink is East Indian in origin, and its name comes from the Hindi word panch, meaning "five." That's because the drink originally contained five ingredients. One traditional recipe for panch calls for arrack (a liquor distilled from rice, molasses, and sometimes palm sap), lemon, tea, sugar, and water.

According to one source, the native Indian beverage was a favorite among sailors in the East India trade and was brought back to England in the late 1600s. Long after the original recipe was abandoned in favor of such things as lime sherbet, ginger ale, and orange juice, the name still survives.

SOURCES: 'Heavens to Betsy,' by C.E. Funk; 'Facts on File: A Dictionary of Clichés,' by Christine Ammer; 'Why You Say It,' by Webb Garrison; 'Clichés,' by Betty Kirkpatrick; 'The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology,' by Robert K. Barnhart; 'The Story Behind the Words,' by Morton Freeman; 'The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins,' by Robert Hendrickson.

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