Friday, 26 February 2016
If it's Friday, it must be time for some more Friday words!
This week's new-to-me term is virtue signaling. I saw this in an article by James Bartholomew in The Spectator modestly titled "I invented ‘virtue signalling’. Now it’s taking over the world." Good on ya, mate, as the Ozzies say. Bragging rights aside, the concept is interesting—here's Bartholomew's description:
[T]he way in which many people say or write things to indicate that they are virtuous. Sometimes it is quite subtle. By saying that they hate the Daily Mail or Ukip, they are really telling you that they are admirably non-racist, left-wing or open-minded.Based on the discussion I found of the term, I would guess that examples of virtue signaling would be changing one's Facebook profile picture to show support for a cause and bumper stickers that state that the driver "stands with" some group.
Anyway, the term is older than Bartholomew claims (maybe he invented it, but he was not the only inventor), and the idea of conspicuous display of virtue is probably about as old as humans. But at least we now have a good term for it.
In the realm of unexpected word origins, the word this week is bangs, in the sense of hair. Odd word, amirite? The Brits use fringe, which is a more transparent term. Whence bangs? The OED indicates that it's of U.S. origin, and the first cites have it in the singular: "His hair cut in front like a young lady's bang" (1880).
The sources kind of suggest that the term originates as a verb, something like to bang off, evolving into the name of the resulting cut (banged hair > bangs). The OED has the cite "The present style of banged girl" (also 1880). But Dictionary.com says that maybe the bang in bangcut is a pronunciation variant of bag, which takes us away from the verb bang as the origin.
It's definitely used to refer to a way to cut the hair in a horse's tail. (Compare bangtail and pigtail.) And apparently because that was (is?) a usual thing to do with racehorses, the term bangtail is a slang term for a racehorse. Sadly, the sources I've consulted, which aren't overly interested in this term, don't suggest how the singular bang became bangs.
Like this? Read all the Friday words.
Friday words, language