It was a little over a month ago that I was sitting at a table with my friends at a camp, minding my own business, when one of the camp’s leaders came over to the table and asked, “Do you mind passing me some naps?”
I didn’t react. I didn’t comprehend either. However, one of my friends did understand and handed him some napkins.
Yes, naps is apparently short for napkins. (In my world, we’d just use serviettes, but I guess naps is better that serfs.) I’m not sure, but I don’t think that has caught on very well.
However, I do know a few words that have been shortened for so long that most people have probably forgotten what they’re shortened from.
So let’s get started, shall we?
1. Recap and recapitulate
Recap is relatively new, having been shortened from recapitulate just over 60 years ago in the 1950s. I’m no etymologist, but I think I can see why it was shortened. I mean, can you imagine a teacher saying, “Okay kids, it’s recapitulation time!” Yeah, I don’t think that’s as catchy as recap time. Or as easy to pronounce in front of a class of seven year-olds.
2. Mutt and muttonhead
Apparently back in the day, sheep were stupider than dogs. I mean, they were the ones who got an entire insult named after them, and it worked so well that we stuck it on the animals trained to take care of them too. How did we get from muttonhead as a reference to sheep to mutt as a reference to dogs? Well, I guess you’d have to ask the people back in the 19th century who invented mutt, but otherwise, that’s English for you.
3. Con and confidence
I don’t know about you, but when I thought of con artists, I thought that con was related to the phrase pros and cons, since, you know, con was a bad thing. But it turns out that con is actually short for confidence, which makes far more sense than my definition. I guess they shortened it because yelling “I got conned!” sounds a lot less dumb that “I got confidenced!” Also, I guess it sort of took on a different meaning.
4. Disco and discotheque
Like every other word we borrowed from French, we had to improve it. Or maybe it just cost way too much money to paste the extra six letters on the side of a building. And thus, discotheque, French for record library, became disco, the popular music for “the cool kids” in the 1970s.
5. Pants and pantaloons
If anyone remembers The Lego Movie, it might have been more hilarious if the TV personality went around yelling, “Honey, where are my pantaloons?” I mean, it’s such a funny word to say. I guess not for most people, since they shortened it to pants.
6. Hype and hyperbole
Okay, so this one doesn’t exactly fit on the list like the others, since hype and hyperbole aren’t exactly describing the same thing anymore. (As opposed to the other examples above.) However, I thought that the definitions were similar enough to warrant inclusion on this list. I mean, hyperbole is severe exaggeration, and hype is severe exaggeration too, right? I mean, when was the last time an incredibly hyped product actually lived up to its promise? So there.
Well, that’s my list of shortened words and their origins. But it’s by no means comprehensive, so what other shortened words do you know with interesting long forms?
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