February 26, 2013 - For Pete's Sake Day

Here is a book by Linda Verville...
This made-up holiday celebrates the creative word-makers and phrase-makers of the world. We usually don't know who started us saying particular phrases (although William Shakespeare is credited with coining many), but we can still tip our hat to the nameless unsung heroes who have added to our language.

...and another by Ellen Stoll Walsh.
The phrase “for Pete's sake,” which some people say when they are frustrated, was apparently created to be a substitute for similar phrases that many consider to “take the Lord's name in vain.” Why Pete is anyone's guess—although a nice one-syllable name with a popping first sound was surely more likely to catch on with frustrated people than something like, “Oh, for Jennifer's sake!”

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the phrase was first recorded in 1903. Other similar uses of Pete include “for the love of Pete” (first recorded in 1906) and “in the name of Pete” (1942).

Perhaps you can celebrate this holiday by trying to get your own name or nickname into a catchy phrase. (Good luck if your name is Jennifer, though!)

By the way...
As I typed the last sentence, I got to wondering how the word nickname came to be. Does it have anything to do with the name Nick? Turns out, no, it doesn't. The word nickname comes from the Old English “an ekename,” which means “an additional name.” Sloppy pronunciation and copying resulted in “a nekename,” which has over the years evolved to our current word nickname.

Celebrate wordsmiths and phrase-makers.

"Etymology" is the study of the origins of words.
  • Read Frindle, the story of a boy who tries to create a new word. 

  • Quiz yourself on word origins in order to learn more about them. You can play this quiz game over and over again, always with new words, to learn even more! 

  • If you want to look up the origin of a word or word part, you could try Online Etymology Dictionary. Remember, it is not explaining definitions of words, but where and when the words came from. 

Also on this date:

Western showman Buffalo Bill Cody's birthday

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