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Word for the Wise December 06, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Sabotage and piggyback

Today we answer two questions that landed in our mailbox after shows on sabotage and piggyback. (来源:英语学习门户网站EnglishCN.com)

We begin with sabotage. Our correspondent had wondered if sabotage, which is popularly (if without a shred of supporting evidence) believed to have its origin in disgruntled workers tossing their sabots, or wooden shoes, into the machinery to botch up the works, had inspired the word slipshod. Unfortunately, only a slipshod lexicographer—that is, one careless or slovenly—would fall for that explanation. In fact, slipshod is a simple combination of the slip that means "slide" plus shod, "having footgear." The original sense of slipshod meant "wearing loose slippers or shoes; down at the heel; shabby."

Our second tale under investigation is none-too-shabby, but, unfortunately, neither is it substantiated. A listener asked if pick pack, the linguistic ancestor of piggyback, refers to the basket borne on the backs of grape pickers, into which the vineyard workers would throw the grapes. Probably not. Lexicographers believe pick is a dialectal variant of pitch, meaning "to throw." And while the picture of the pickers pitching grapes into back packs sounds pretty enough, we don't have evidence to pin piggyback on workers toiling in the fields. More likely, the item being pitched was the pack itself, onto the back or shoulders of the wearer.

 
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