In the late 1880s, something scandalous occurred in the village of Tuxedo Park, New York- some young hooligans started wearing tailcoats without the tails! This was to get around the strict dress codes at the swanky country clubs while still looking formal. The fashion caught on quickly, and within years, much of the American elite began wearing tuxedos. All this was despite a strict conservative backlash by people who feared the decline of tailed coats. Fascinating stuff. Anyway, onward! The tuxedo part of Tuxedo Park is definitely native American in origin, from the Algonquian family. However, different theories have been proposed. Some believe it to be from Munsee p'tuksepo, meaning "crooked river", others espouse the Lenape word tucseto, meaning "place of the bear", and still more draw connections to "wolves" and "flowing water". To this day, the tuxedo is controversial, it appears!
The word warm comes from the Middle English word werm, which comes from the Old English word wearm, which comes from the Proto-Germanic warmaz, with still the same meaning. Some think that warmaz is from the Proto-Indo-European root ghwer, meaning "heat", but that's unconfirmed. None of this is surprising; in fact, it's one of the most prosaic etymologies I've ever encountered. It's the word lukewarm which is interesting: what does luke mean? How did the 29th most common name in the US get in front of a noun? Well, it has nothing to do with the name; it's an old word also meaning "warm"! The compound was made in Middle English, when luke was already archaic. This is from Old English hleow, which had an additional definition of "sunny". Through Proto-Germanic khlewaz, this is said to trace to the Proto-Indo-European root kele, still meaning "warm". So, yeah. Warm-warm.
At first glance, you can tell that the word icicle has the term ice in it, but what is the -icle part? Well, first we need to go back to the Middle English word isykle. Is- is indeed the precursor of ice, from Old English is. Ultimately, it comes from the Proto-Indo-European root heyh, "frost" (through Proto-Germanic isa). A dull etymology, but now we look at -ykle! Surprisingly, it too meant "ice", which means that icicle actually is a tautology secretly meaning "ice ice"! -Ykle is from Old English gicel, from Proto-Germanic jeko (which meant something more like "clump of ice"), which in turn derives from the now-familiar Proto-Indo-European term heyh, as well. When the word icicle was first attested in the fourteenth century, it seems that the latter part of the word was already becoming archaic, and this one remnant has survived. The word popsicle, which obviously is rooted in icicle, is actually a registered trademark of Unilever, so take care not to infringe that.
The word potpourri in French was pot pourri, which literally means "rotten pot"! This is because the original potpourri was a stew with random things thrown in (thus its definition of "miscellaneous collection"), and in many instances this was not, shall we say, the most delicious meal. Pot pourri is a calque (a translation of a phrase into native words) of the Spanish term olla podrida, with the same meaning. Pot itself, through Middle and Old French, derives from the Latin word pottus, which in turn is from Proto-Germanic puttaz, the etymon of the English word pot, and another word meaning "jar" or "pot". Finally, pot traces to Proto-Indo-European budn, "vessel". This is only one theorized origin; there are some other hypotheses as well. Now to pourri: like putrid, it comes from Latin putrere, which meant "to decay". That in turn is thought to be from a Proto-Indo-European root sounding like pu, with the definition "stink", because of Sanskrit cognates. So, together, beyond just the "rotten pot" definition, potpourri means "stink vessel" as well.
Mancala is arguably the oldest game in the world; archaeological remains in Jordan of it predate the development of agriculture in many areas. Apparently, the game was first written about by the Abbasids in the tenth century CE. They used the word manqala, which meant "to move", which is quite appropriate, since the whole point of the game is moving marbles. This word spread everywhere from Jordan to Malawi, but it notably entered the English language in the seventeenth century as mancala, the word we have today. Going back to the word manqala, we have no records on its origins (as is sadly the case with so many non-Indo-European terms), but I can tell you that it probably comes from a Proto-Semitic word, in turn from a root in the hypothesized Afro-Asiatic language. Due to recent commercialization, usage of the word mancala increased dramatically between the late 1980s and the early 2000s, but now it appears to be decreasing again.
In the 1860s, there was an Englishman named John Cassell marketing a kind of petroleum for powering lamps, named cazeline after himself. Much to his chagrin, a guy in Dublin, named John Boyd, was also selling cazeline, and when Cassell accused him of this, he denied it, going through his stock and changing every c to a g, creating the word gazeline. Cassell took him to court, and won, but it was too late: the name had stuck. Eventually, the z got switched to an s, and the e to an o. Curiously, in Jamaica and Australia, many have also started spelling it gasolene. Going in depth a bit further, back when Cassell sold his petroleum, he used an existing suffix -elene, which meant "oil" and comes from Greek elaia, "olive" (which might have Proto-Hellenic and Pre-Mediterranean sources). Later, gasoline was shortened to gas, which means that the word for what powers your car and the word for the state of helium at STP are theoretically unconnected (though the former definitely was, in part, influenced by the latter). Whoa.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic. This year, I graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and Linguistics. There, I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society and wrote a thesis on Serbo-Croatian language policy, magna cum laude. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy philosophy, trivia, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.