Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Origins of Common Abbreviations

£ for lb.
Meaning: Pound
Origin: The abbreviation originates with the Latin phrase libra pondo, which means "a unit of measurement by weight." The Romans shortened the phrase to pondo, which ultimately became pound in English, but the abbreviation of the first word - lb., for libra- endured. The symbol for British currency is a stylized L, or £, which comes from the same source. The value of the British pound was originally equal to one pound of silver.

Meaning: Very important person
Origin: This frequently used contraction was created during World War II by a British officer in charge of organizing flights for important military leaders. In order to conceal the names from enemy spies, each of these were referred to as a "V.I.P." in the flight plan.

Meaning: A married woman
Origin: Originally, Mrs. was a shortened version of mistress, a word that used to mean "wife" but has since acquired a very different meaning. Strictly speaking, because the word it once abbreviated has changed its meaning, Mrs. is no longer an abbreviation - unlike Mr., its male counterpart, which can be spelled out as Mister.

Meaning: A strikeout in baseball
Origin: In the 1860s when a batter struck out, it was proper to say that he "struck." It was during this era that a newspaperman named Henry Chadwick created symbols for use with his new invention - the box score. He gave each play a letter: S for sacrifice, E for error, and so on. Since S was already taken, he used to last letter of "struck" instead of the first to abbreviate it: K.

Meaning: A drug prescription
Origin: Actually, there is no x in Rx. In Medieval Latin, the first word in medicinal prescription directing one to take a specific quantity of a concoction was recipe, meaning "take" or "receive." This was later symbolized as an R with a slash across its leg. The spelling Rx is an attempt to represent this symbol in English letters.

Meaning: Body odor
Origin: In 1933 the Lifebuoy Health Soap Company ran a series of radio advertisements containing their new slogan: "Lifebuoy stops B— O—." A heavy two-note foghorn warning was synchronized with the "B.O.," giving the phrase a negative spin it has retained ever since.

Meaning: June 6, 1944, the day Allied forces invaded France during WWII
Origin: The D in D-Day does not stand for "designated" or "defeat," as many believe, but simply for "day." D-day actually means "day day." The redundancy comes from the common practice in army correspondence of referring to a top secret time as H-hour or D-day.

Meaning: Marking on bottles in cartoons to indicate that they contain alcohol
Origin: During the 19th century, breweries in Britain marked their bottles X, XX, or XXX as a sign of alcohol content. The number of Xs corresponded to the potency of the drink.