The Origin of Words You Hear A Lot in the Office

The following is reprinted from Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History Again Did you know that the word "cubicle" used to mean sleeping quarters (actually, it still is for some people), "suit" came from the uniforms of stable servants, and "team" used to mean beasts of burden? Here are the origin of words you hear a lot in the office ... and after you read this, get back to work! Boss This word came from the Dutch word baas, meaning "master." But early americans didn't like using master - it was too aristocratic to survive as a general term. So they started using "baas" in the late 18th century. It caught on (against the objections of some word snobs) and eventually became "boss." Cubicle Dating back to the 1400s, this word stemmed from the Latin cubiculum, meaning "sleeping area" (completely apropos). It became obsolete after the 16th century, but it was revived in the 19th century as a word for "dormitory sleeping compartments." Its use as any partitioned space didn't surface until the 1920s. Getting Fired The phrase "fired out," meaning to throw out or eject someone from a place, was first used in 1871. When the "out" was dropped a few years later, the phrase was narrowed to mean "dismissal of an employee." There's a consensus among etymologists that both "fired" and "fired out" refer to the firing of a gun. Learning the Ropes Before an old-time apprentice sailor could really help out on a big ship, he had to learn which ropes had what effect on which sails. Before he did, he wasn't much use to anyone. After he "learned the ropes," he could finally hoist the right mast - and avoid being flogged. Logging On This phrase's predecessor was "logging in" (sometimes still used interchangeably). Back when mainframe computer operators used to go on shifts, they'd have to write everything they did in a paper log, beginning when they arrived. So when you log on to a computer today, you're signing in. Memorandum From the Latin word "to be remembered," it was originally a word written at the top of a note. But by 1542, it became the word for the note itself. Rank and File This phrase that refers to an organization's mass of low-ranking peons has military origins: soldiers in formation marched side by side (rank) and one behind the other (file). Its first known usage was in 1598. Later, it became generalized to mean common soldiers and then further generalized to refer to common people. Suit The word dates back to the 1200s, to the funky English-French word siwte, referring to the uniform worn by the royal court's stable servants. It came to mean a more general set of clothes to be worn together in the 14th century. As a derisive term for a businessman, it dates from 1979, possibly from the hippie term for an FBI agent, circa the late 1960s. The term "empty suit," meaning a person of small intellect or personality, evolved in the 1980s. Teamwork The original Middle English meaning of team was applied to a group of draft animals yoked together. Around 1828, someone thought of combining the word "team" with the word "work" - probably hoping to spur sluggish workers into action. So "teamwork" really mean working like one of many beasts of burden. Depressing, huh?
The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History Again. The book is a compendium of entertaining information chock-full of facts on a plethora of history topics. Uncle John's first plunge into history was a smash hit - over half a million copies sold! And this sequel gives you more colorful characters, cultural milestones, historical hindsight, groundbreaking events, and scintillating sagas. Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. Check out their website here: Bathroom Reader Institute

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You don't "hoist a mast" -- you hoist a SAIL. The mast is the big pole that the sails go up and down on. (Easy there big fella!! It's a nautical term!) :-)
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"Boot", as in "boot up your computer" or "reboot". Riding boots used to (and still do, AFAIK) have "bootstraps" formed into loops at the tops of the boots, for pulling the boots on. Someone who improves their lot in life with no outside help is said to have "pulled himself up by his bootstraps" -- a form of levitation, as it were. Early computers had very minimal programs stored in ROM or even entered by hand via switches (yes, I did this in the 70s) that would then load a larger program from disk or tape, which would load the operating system. These "boot" programs allowed the computer to bring itself up, with the least possible support from any other resource.
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The word "Crossed" comes from long ago, (don't remember date, sometime after 300AD) but the early Catholic church started selling splinters that supposedly came from the cross. The word "Crossed" means to be done wrong.

The word "Double Crossed" is when someone is done double wronged. Such as deceptively selling them a splinter of wood, saying it was from the cross, and charging them an extra high price for it.
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