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Pop the word expo into a search engine and you will be rewarded with a long list of trade shows and business conferences.
Expo is an abbreviation of exposition, which from Latin through French has a meaning of “putting something out in the open.”
But the literal meaning can be very easily seen by remembering that the ex in exposition—as in many other words starting with ex—means “not” or “out of.”
Displace the ex from exposition and we get position and thus the literal meaning of exposition is that something has been put “out of position,” it is “out of place.”
Although the word exposition has been around in English since before William Shakespeare was a glimmer in his parents eyes, the truncation down to expo didn’t happen until my own lifetime. The Oxford English Dictionary cites 1963 as the first occurrence of expo, and in this case it was spelled with a capital E.
That’s because it was during the planning stages of Expo 67, the world exposition for which the City of Montreal more or less built new islands upon which to stage the exposition.
I was there.
Expo 67 was such a big hit that two years later when Montreal got a major league baseball team, the team also got named after this wonderful new word; The Montreal Expos.
But I guess the Expos must have been—like their etymology—out of place, because in 2004 the were moved and became the Washington Nationals.
Somehow this too seems to me to be out of place; a team that had been Canadian suddenly becoming Nationals in Washington.
Five days a week Charles Hodgson produces Podictionary – the podcast for word lovers, Thursday episodes here at OUPblog. He’s also the author of several books including his latest History of Wine Words – An Intoxicating Dictionary of Etymology from the Vineyard, Glass, and Bottle.