What makes a new phrase stick, really stick, in general parlance? Author Ralph Keyes explores that question in his book The Hidden History of Coined Words while also providing entertaining explanations of some of English’s most nonplussing words and phrases. All sorts of situations beget new words—hoaxes, insults, and jokes have all created common words, while more than a few resulted from typos, mistranslations, and mishearing (bigly and buttonhole, for example), or from being taken entirely out of context (robotics). Neologizers (a Thomas Jefferson coinage) include not just scholars and writers but cartoonists, columnists, children’s book authors. Keyes also tackles terms with contested coinages, addressing the controversy of the origins of gonzo, mojo, and booty call.
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