Stories of common words (part 1)

1 minute read

I have been reading Garrison’s book: Why you say it whenever I get some spare time. It’s fascinating to learn stories behind common words that you say, or write or hear everyday. Here is an effort to pull few interesting stories.


Captain Charles C. Boycott was an Irish estate manager of the estate Earl of Erne. There once was a devastating potato famine in Ireland and due to that the tenants there could not pay their rents. Mr. Boycott evicted those who could not pay. It was so serious about Mr. Boycott’s treatment to the tenants that the citizens of the county organized a resistance that no merchant would sell any product to him. He was greeted with jeers whenever he appeared in public. The protest was successful and eventually Captain Boycott left Ireland. Since then, any organized protests and movements, his name appears in speech.

Lay an Egg

In a game of Cricket, you scored a duck's egg implies you scored a zero, since the shape of an egg resembles the shape of a zero.


In the 13th century, the French called a piece of bread broken from a loaf a bribe. That perhaps was likely to be given to a clergyman or somewhat holy man who asked for food. In return, the recipient holy man pledged to remember the donor in his prayers. Later in the 16th century, the meaning of the word shifted to label this act of giving-&-receiving of bribe as a corrupt financial transaction.