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Friday, July 29, 2011

If you go down to the woods today...

Despite what you may have heard about “picnic” being a racist term having something to do with lynching, it is in fact a perfectly innocuous word derived from the French verb piquer (to peck at) and nique(something of little value). It came into English in the mid 1700s, referring to a European custom that is essentially what we would call a potluck dinner. The outdoor element came to be the defining factor only about a century later (and seems to have been an English invention).

1 comment:

  1. Hello,

    Hmmm ...

    The standard word in Romanian for "nothing" is "nimic", sometimes used in the variant of "nimica". But I have also heard the regional version "nic", resp. "nica".

    I'm not sure if it's just "mi" being dropped there, or there is some connection to French "nique" ...



About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.