Why did well-known words and phrases come into being? There are many fanciful explanations, most of them unbelievable and insupportable. I have collected them into a mini e-book:
And here are some extras completely free:
Why was French Revolutionary hero Robespierre known as “the sea-green Incorruptible”?
He was said to be unable to be corrupted, or bought off (the Incorruptible part). He is supposed to have worn a sea-green cockade in his hat, hence the sea-green part.
He was as incorruptible as the sea was green.
Mme de Staël said he was pale, with green veins. Carlyle translated this to sea-green, “atrabiliar”, and went on about it.
Someone else at the time or nearer it said he had greenish spectacles.
GABARDINE Was invented by Alice Gabardine in 1888.
HORCHATA It’s a traditional drink made from nuts. The Free Dictionary says: Various folk etymologies exist – one legend links the origins of the name to James I of Aragon, who after being given the drink for the first time by a local in Alboraya, was said to have exclaimed "Això és or, xata!" ("That's gold, darling!")
LOO for toilet From the trade name Waterloo, which featured on iron cisterns.
GROAT John o’Groats is called after Jan de Groot, who ran a ferry from there (to Orkney, Fair Isle and Shetland, probably). The fare was 4d. Hence groat, which is how you pronounce Groot. (Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island)
KANGAROO Is the Australian aborigine for "What is that?".
BOOMERANG So-called because when early settlers asked the aborigines what the device was called, they answered "boomerang", meaning "it has no name".
LIGHT-HEARTED, HEAVY-HEARTED From ancient Egyptians thinking that
after death your heart was weighed against a feather.
MATTRESSES Used to be secured on bed frames by ropes.When you pulled them the mattress got firmer, hence the phrase “Goodnight,sleep tight” says @LadyKentmores (George Johnson) Or is it because the mattress rested on a network of ropes which needed tightening occasionally? (Lucy Worsley)