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Word for the Wise October 12, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Sabotage

Today we happily throw a monkey wrench into the works. What works are those? The ones which grind out tale after tale of word origins which sound good but just don't work. (来源:英语麦当劳 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

Our untrue but plausible-seeming story centers on the word sabotage. In the early days of its existence, sabotage referred to the destruction of an employer's property (as tools and materials) or the hindering of manufacturing by discontented workers.

The word sabotage has an ancestor in the French saboter, meaning "to botch, to do in a clumsy or slipshod way, or to clatter with sabots." The sabot, as shoe-fanciers know, is a plain wooden work shoe worn in Europe.

This is where conspiracy theorists start to have fun. Supposedly, as the Industrial Revolution swung into high gear, French factory workers vented their frustration and anger by tossing their shoes into the machinery.

As logical as this story may sound, there's no evidence for it. What we do know is that sabots were both noisy and clumsy-making, and that early saboteurs were given that label not only for their interference with machinery but also for their destructive or obstructive actions intended to hinder a nation's war effort.

 
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