Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Late Night Questions

Ah, yes! Those wonderful times while lying in bed, just before sleep arrives and the mind is nodding and throwing out questions like lifelines from a sinking ship.

When physicians treat you, why do you end up paying?

What do they keep in a pole vault?

Isn't extraordinary just a lot more ordinary than usual?

Is it the crack of dawn that causes daybreak or is it nightfall that causes the crack of dawn?

Isn’t someone anesthetized in the operating room an outpatient?

If you float an idea, how long before it sinks in?

Who coined the phrase “coin a phrase?”

The last one I can answer -

'To coin a phrase' is now rarely used with its original 'invent a new phrase' meaning but is almost always used ironically to introduce a banal or clich├ęd sentiment. This usage began in the mid 20th century. For example, in Francis Brett Young's novel Mr. Lucton's Freedom, 1940:

"It takes all sorts to make a world, to coin a phrase."

Coining, in the sense of creating, derives from the coining of money by stamping metal with a die. Coins - also variously spelled coynes, coigns, coignes or quoins - were the blank, usually circular, disks from which money was minted. This usage derived from an earlier 14th century meaning of coin, which meant wedge. The wedge-shaped dies which were used to stamp the blanks were called coins and the metal blanks and the subsequent 'coined' money took their name from them.

Coining later began to be associated with inventiveness in language. In the 16th century the 'coining' of words and phrases was often referred to. By that time the monetary coinage was often debased or counterfeit and the coining of words was often associated with spurious linguistic inventions.


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