Yesterday was a landmark day in the New York Times: it was the first time the word "girlbossified" was used in the newspaper. This got me thinking about how I've been seeing girlboss pop up a lot more recently (generally used to describe a "feminist icon", although according to Urban Dictionary this can sometimes have negative connotations), so I did a little dive into the history. Turns out it was coined in 2014 by American businesswoman Sophia Amoruso in the title of her autobiography, #Girlboss. This set off a hashtag trend on social media and a subsequent 2017 Netflix series - by that point it was fairly established. At a certain point around that time, it began being used pejoratively to describe media or advertising situations where were women were portrayed with more attention focused on their gender than their other qualities. In January 2021, the phrase gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss began being used as a parody of live, laugh, love, and that gave the word a kind of meme quality that allowed it to return on a meta-ironic level.
Both definitions of the word maraschino, describing either the type of cherry or the liqueur obtained from distilling cherries, come from a diminutive form of the Italian word marasca, which referred to a specific kind of black cherry. That comes from the word amaro, meaning "bitter" (because the cherries tasted bitter; this is also probably the source of the name of the morello cherry), and amaro traces back to the Latin word amarus, also "bitter". Finally, that's reconstructed back to Proto-Indo-European hem, meaning "raw". Interestingly, the sch combination of letters should have shown up as an sk sound as the Italian word travelled into English, but Americans in the early twentieth century didn't know how to pronounce it correctly, so they said it with an sh and that just kind of stuck, reaching the UK and beyond in the 1970s. Usage peaked in 1932, but it's been trending upwards again in recent decades.
The word earworm, which today describes infectious melodies that get stuck in your head, was first attested in 1598 in reference to the earwig insect, a usage that has since become archaic and is in fact unrelated to the modern meaning. That "catchy tune" definition comes from a 1978 calque of the German phrase Ohr wurm, also translating to "ear worm". The idea was that many pieces of music burrow into your head much like an insect would—an unpleasant thought, I know. Ohr comes from Old High German ora and Proto-Germanic auso, and ultimately traces to Proto-Indo-European hows, also meaning "ear". Wurm, meanwhile, is a relative of the English words worm and wyrm, and it comes from Middle High German wurm. Finally, that comes from Proto-Germanic wurmiz and Proto-Indo-European wrmis, which also meant "worm" and might be from wer, a verb meaning "to turn" or "bend".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.