Archive for November, 2011

In the Absence of Pigs

November 29, 2011

“Piggyback” has been around since at least the 16th century.  The earliest forms of the term include “pick pack,” “pick back” and “pick-a-pack,” and make no reference of pigs. The common element in these early forms, “pick,” is an old English dialect word related to “pitch” meaning “to throw or place” (as we “pitch a tent” today). The “pack” was most likely the load carried, whether inert or human, so “pick-a-pack,” for instance, might mean to “pick (put) the load on the bearer’s back.” The use of “back” in some early forms reinforces this interpretation.

Around the 18th century, “pickaback”  became the dominant form, but there was problematic. The “back” part was clear, but no one at that point understood where the “picka” came from. So through a process fairly common in language known as “folk etymology,” people replaced the part of the word that made no sense (“picka”) with one that sorta, maybe, kinda did (“piggy”). Alas… “piggyback.”

Figurative uses of “piggyback” are fairly recent, dating back just to the 20th century, and most of those have involved carrying one thing on another (e.g.,  a child on the back of an adult, trucks on flatbed railway cars and even space travel).

Today, piggyback refers to using someone else’s technology. Specifically, it means to hop on board someone else’s unsecured wireless network in order to access the Internet with your laptop or mobile device. For example, “let me stop in that hotel lobby, I may be able to piggyback onto their network without having to pay for the Starbucks hotspot.” Another example, “At the moment, Google and Yahoo are not charging consumers to piggyback onto their mapping engines.”


Advent and Anticipation

November 27, 2011


Word Chaser Update! Wine Thief…

November 27, 2011

A cave,  a bunghole and a wine thief makes for a beautiful day.

Word Chaser of the Day – JUKE

November 27, 2011

On a recent very long drive home from a Thanksgiving weekend with family in Napa, California, conversation meandered through a variety of topics.

When my husband started talking football and juke in the same sentence I was perplexed. How did we go from a roadside or rural establishment offering liquor, dancing, and often gambling and prostitution such as a juke house or juke joint to a juke box? Well apparently playing dance music on a juke box,  had its origins with West African “joog”  as some sort of demonizing movements and gyrations. Juke was popularized in Florida and then chiefly in the Southeastern states an African-American word meaning a roadside drinking establishment that offering cheap drinks, food, and music that doubled as a brothel. Hence, given that to juke is dancing, observe the football player attempting to deceive or outmaneuver (a defending opponent) by a fake! Juke is a word that merits a return to our vocabulary.