10 Words That Don’t Really Mean Anything

10 Words That Don’t Really Mean Anything

Articles Blog

If the omniscient tome known colloquially
as the Big Ol’ Book of Words for Nerds, and officially as The Dictionary, is to be
believed, every word located within the well-worn pages of this bastion of the English language
means something. But actually, there are a bunch of words many
of us use every single day that don’t mean a dang thing, and were either pulled out of
thin air by a random person many years ago or willed into existence by a committee of
ad men in crisp, pristine suits purely to sell a product. Thanks to years — and even centuries — of
frequent use, many of these wholly made-up words have since entered into the popular
lexicon and continue to be used in conversation and commercials today. Since language is an ever-evolving beast,
this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it sure stands as a testament to the power
of human ingenuity that most people don’t realize the only meaning any of the following
words have is the meaning we have since ascribed to them. 10. Wi-Fi was made up because the real word wasn’t
catchy enough It’s commonly asserted that the word Wi-Fi
stands for wireless fidelity, much in the same way the word Hi-Fi stands for high fidelity. Which makes sense, right? However, according to one Dr. Alex Hills,
who is partially responsible for the creation of the first Wi-Fi networks in history, that’s
simply not the case. The word Wi-Fi was instead something wireless
engineers coined solely for marketing reasons. Hills says the name was needed because because
the technical specification the newly created wireless networks used (called IEEE 802.11)
didn’t exactly roll off the tongue. To be fair to Dr Hills, he kind of has a point
and it’s hard to imagine the technology would have caught on with such an unintuitive
and lame-ass name. In his book, Wi-Fi and the Bad Boys of Radio,
Hills recalls that members of the emergent wireless industry chose the word Wi-Fi mostly
because it sounded catchy, though he does note that the natural link between Hi-Fi and
Wi-Fi probably helped cement it in the minds of the public. You know, even though the two words have nothing
to do with one another and are in no way linked. 9. Haagen-Dazs was made up by a guy at his kitchen
table According to Reuben Mattus, the original creator
of the Häagen-Dazs brand, he came up with the now iconic name of his pillowy-soft ice
cream after spending several hours saying nonsense words aloud until he found one he
thought sounded neat. Purported to be a Danish word on early Häagen-Dazs
packaging — the packaging even included a map of Denmark because lying to your customers
apparently wasn’t illegal back then — the word has no translation in any language and
especially not in Danish. Something anyone familiar with the Danish
language can tell at a glance, seeing as Danish language doesn’t make use of umlauts. Like, at all. Mattus, a Polish Jew, would later note that
he chose a name that “sounded” Danish to the untrained ear as a subtle tribute to
the country of Denmark, which he greatly respected for its many WW2-era efforts to save Jews
from persecution. That said, Mattus would also later note that
the name was chosen to make it stand out to consumers, reasoning that a foreign-sounding
name suggested an intangible air of quality to his ice cream that consumers would innately
pick up on when browsing store shelves. 8. Idaho was a word someone pulled out of thin
air According to historians, the name of the Potato
State has no meaning in any known language and it was, as far as anyone can tell, just
a made up word suggested by an early territorial representative for the area named B.D. Williams. The story goes that long before Idaho was
called, well… Idaho, someone proposed naming it Jefferson. Republicans voted against this and Williams
instead suggested Idaho, claiming that it was an old Indian word meaning “Gem of the
Mountains.” Almost immediately, this was debunked by Oregon
senator Joseph Lane, who correctly asserted “No Indian tribe in the nation has that
word … It is a corruption certainly, a counterfeit, and ought not to be adopted.” Amazingly, even after Williams acknowledged
that Idaho was a made up nonsense word likely coined by his predecessor George M. Willing,
it still caught on. So much so that the people of proto-State
began using it anyway, applying the name to both a steamboat and a mine, among other things. Before long the word had entered the collective
conscious to the extent that even though people knew Idaho didn’t mean anything, they still
voted for it being the official name of the new State. History is fun like that sometimes. 7. SOS doesn’t mean anything, which is kind
of the point While many assume that SOS stands for Save
Our Souls, or Save Our Ship, or something similar, the truth is that the abbreviation
doesn’t really stand for anything. Which, as Reader’s Digest handily points
out, is kind of the point. To explain, as you may or may not know, the
universal signal for distress in Morse code is three dots, three dashes, and a further
three dots. Officially introduced in 1905 by the German
government, this sequence of signals is difficult to misinterpret and easy to recognize, even
to the untrained ear. This was seen as being incredibly important
as it allowed ships in foreign waters to signal that they were in need of help without having
to worry about a language barrier. A pervasive problem before the idea of a universal
signal for distress was introduced that saw many boats sink before help could arrive,
as is wont to happen when you’re effectively screaming via a series of beeps at someone
who doesn’t understand you at all. Now technically this signal can be expressed
in a number of ways, with IJS, SMB, and VTB all resulting in the same string of dots and
dashes when expressed Morse Code. However, SOS eventually won out simply because
it was so visibly distinctive and the fact it can be read from any direction, allowing
stranded sailors to additionally type SOS out with rocks and stuff. 6. Zumba was made up over lunch in a single afternoon A popular misconception about the popular
power-posing dance exercise classes known as Zumba is that the word has its roots in
Spanish, which is partially true, but not really. You see, prior to being known as Zumba, the
fitness program was known as “Rumbacize,” a portmanteau of Rumba (which means “to
party” in Spanish) and Jazzercise, a similar exercise program popular in the ’90s (ask
your parents about it!). Problems arose, though, when the creator of
Zumba, Alberto Perez, tried to trademark the term and found that it’d had already been
stealthily registered by the owner of a gym he taught Rumbacize classes at. Undeterred, Perez and his business partners
wiled away an afternoon riffing on the word rumba to find something that hit the ear just
right. The word they eventually settled on, as you
can probably guess, was Zumba. On its own website the Zumba company openly
acknowledges that zumba is “arbitrary and fanciful word” they made up, which hasn’t
stopped people assuming that it must mean something in at least one language. 5. Ginsu was invented to make knives made in
Ohio seem Japanese Ginsu is a word made famous by a bunch of
cheesy commercials from the 1980s designed to do one thing and one thing only: sell whoever
was watching some fancy, overpriced knives. Although the commercials played into the katana-like
sharpness of the knives and leaned heavily into Japanese imagery, including using fonts
seemingly ripped straight out of a Japanese B-movie about ninjas, all Ginsu Knives are
designed and manufactured by the Scott Fetzer company in Ohio. According to a Washington Post profile of
the man who coined the word, Arthur Schiff, this was a deliberate decision made to convince
the public that “no matter how many knives they already owned, [Ginsu knives] were something
special.” As an aside, Schiff often claims to have coined
the word in his sleep and never once revealed what, if anything, it was supposed to mean
beyond “sounding” sort-of Japanese. The same can be said of Schiff’s partners
in the Ginsu empire, Edward Valenti and Barry Becher — the latter of whom would reportedly
respond to the question “what does Ginsu mean?” by smiling and stating “I never
have to work again.“ 4. Kodak was made up by a guy who loved the letter
K Given the multitude of advancements to the
world of camera technology Kodak as a company is responsible for, you wouldn’t be remiss
to think the word “Kodak” itself had some deeper meaning. For example, one popular theory is that the
word Kodak is an onomatopoeic representation of the sound a camera shutter makes when you
take a photo, or perhaps a nod to the fact you could use an especially large one of their
cameras to fend off an aggressive bear. Which, while nice, is a load of bunk because
according to Kodak itself the founder of the company George Eastman basically pulled the
name out of his butt. Eastman is said to have coined the word while
playing anagrams with his mother and settled on Kodak simply because he really, really
liked the letter K. That’s not a joke, by the way; Eastman often
described the letter K as “a strong, incisive sort of letter,” acknowledging this by making
sure his company name contained not one, but two Ks. Eastman also settled on the name Kodak because
he reasoned that it was simple enough to never be mispronounced and was distinctive enough
to not be mistaken for another word. 3. Halitosis was made up to sell you mouthwash Halitosis is a science-y sounding word frequently
bandied around by dentists and mouthwash commercials that is used to describe a medical condition
characterized by atrociously bad breath and a sudden uptick in the number of people willing
to shove their tongue in your mouth. Here’s the thing, though: there’s no such
thing as halitosis. It was a made up medical condition coined
by the owner of Listerine in the 1920s. The most popular version of the story behind
the word is as follows. After failing to market Listerine as everything
from an antiseptic to a cure for gonorrhea that you could also use to scrub your floors
(no, really), company owner Jordan Wheat Lambert decided to change tack and market his product
as a cure for bad breath. To convince the public that they needed Listerine,
Lambert scoured the dictionary and happened upon an old Latin word meaning breath, halitus,
which he decided to stylize as halitosis to make it sound like a legitimate medical condition. The company then ran a series of ads claiming
that halitosis (which they defined as meaning “unpleasant breath”) was a chronic problem
plaguing America for which only they had the cure. 2. OK was (probably) coined as a joke According to the Smithsonian, the origins
of the word “OK” aren’t entirely clear but a common and highly plausible theory is
that it was coined as a joke and has no definitive meaning. Specifically, it’s purported that a writer
for the Boston Morning Post created the word during a satirical article about spelling
in 1879. Said article suggested that OK was an acronym
for “Oll Korrect,” a deliberate misspelling of All Correct, and it’s suggested that
this somehow struck a chord with the public and entered into the popular lexicon. Although this is by no means the only possible
origin of the word, with some theories suggesting it may have originated in Europe or perhaps
the Middle East as even the Bedouin tribes of the Sahara seemed to be familiar with it
at around the same time it entered popular usage, aptly named etymologist (word nerd)
Allen Read is known to have spent years trying to trace the origins of OK and put this particular
theory forward as one of the more plausible explanations during his lifetime. 1. Corinthian leather doesn’t mean anything,
was made in Jersey Many people assume, somewhat understandably,
that the modifier “Corinthian” in the phrase Corinthian Leather is used to describe
a hyper-exclusive kind of leather. Perhaps manufactured by blind monks with impossibly
soft hands in a small Spanish village somewhere in the heart of rural Europe. As it turns out, the leather was actually
from a factory in Jersey and the phrase was something thought up by an ad executive to
make the Chrysler Cordoba sound cool and exotic. To doubly sell the public on this and obfuscate
the true origins of the leather, Chrysler hired actor Ricardo Montalban to be the spokesman
for the car, presumably because the words Corinthian Leather sounded ridiculous sweet
in his impossibly sexy Spanish accent. For years the company and Montalban himself
refused to admit what, if anything, Corinthian Leather was supposed to mean. That was until the actor was asked point blank
during an interview with Letterman to spill the beans, prompting him to sheepishly admit that it meant nothing.

100 thoughts on “10 Words That Don’t Really Mean Anything”

  1. Today's cynical emotional opinion I want to share is: Some of today's youth have this idea:
    " if it isn't a thing… then just make it a thing." What they really mean is:
    " if it's not a real word or it's wrong, just add it to the dictionary. "
    " If you don't have some needed skills for the job, change the job description. "
    Always a winner.
    Always special.
    Never lose.
    Not learning hard lessons in life.
    Consequences not for my child. My child is perfect!
    Mommy, Daddy or Grandparents won't let them receive punishments for ill behavior.
    Children, teens & young adults need to make mistakes & learn consequences. Especially, while they are young & supposed to. While they are still at home & have the support of family to help them figure it out.

    Some of my children's friends scare me. They are somewhat helpless. This one kid (18 yrs old) Gets actual anxiety attacks when they try to call & make _their own doctor appointment!! I've seen her slam the phone down on the receptionist, for saying Hello. There are even Youtubers that are speaking out about this too. WTF?!? Not a great "trend" this lack of life skills. *sigh

    On the other hand, some of these exact same kids will text insults at complete strangers &/or yell them at people out in the streets driving by. The simple act of calling another human, for your own health or needs is out of the question? OR Is it the act of being kind &/or nice that eludes them? Next time I have a house full I must ask them. Society is at risk of today's youth taking over for the worse. I'll do what I can, with the crazy youth that I know. If we all pitch in… maybe we can stop their crap before they start passing laws that affect us all.

  2. S.O S was first used and recognized in 1912 when the Titanic sank. But in 1909 when White Star line's ship Republic sank off Nantucket, most of the passengers and crew were saved when the wireless officer used the original signal C Q D to get aid.

  3. Simon, Simon, Simon… 😣
    Once again, problems with pronunciation. 🤐
    6:35 – Ginsu is pronounced with a "hard G" as in get, or ghost
    Please please PLEASE do a modicum of research sometimes?

  4. wi-fi was not named ieee #, because NONE of them are! Email wasn't either! BOTH are ieee specs, with numbers though

    I always thought haagen dazs was supposedly swedish. THAT might have made sense. The short ah sound like dawson doesn't exist in danish. It is a longer sound like hans …anderson. ALSO, umlauts do NOT exist in the danish alphabet, though they DO exist in swedish!

    Apparently SOS was picked because it HAD to be THREE characters that meant nothing. OTHERWISE, it might delay, or be misunderstood. ALSO, it is VERY easy it spell in morse code! so if you see …—…, it likely means SOS! If it does, it will soon repeat.

  5. Thanks for using the word "onomatopoeic". Never heard it used before by anyone besides myself. Wasn't even sure it was right. Nice one.

  6. My favourite word (recently) is – to testiculate; it means to talk total b****cks with a lot of gesticulation. 😁

  7. "I am working on this map. What are we going to call this area over here?", "I dunno", "Pardon me?", "I SAID I DUNNO!! You deaf cow.", "Alright! No need to shout. Idaho it is then. Sheesh."

  8. I was heard that okay was made up by the telegraph company when it was wiring up the west in the United States as just a short way of saying all right. Not that it matches. Or just to check the line to see if it was working properly

  9. It's not Gin Sue…. With a soft "g"…. It's Ginsue with a hard "g" like the g in the word beGin… So if you say beginsue… Just leave off the be and you have Ginsue..

  10. O.K. Comes from President Martin Van Buren,who was from Kinderhook, N.Y. His nickname was ‘Old Kinderhook’. He would sign documents with ‘O.K.’ , thus, being the first to put his O.K. on paper. Spelling the phrase as ‘okay’, is therefore historically incorrect.

  11. It's illegal to say the phrase "Corinthian leather" if not preceded by the word "rich" (in Idaho.)

  12. “#8: Idaho was a word someone pulled out of thin air”

    Legend has it they’re filling the potato chip bags with that same air to this day.

  13. Idaho is a NAME, it doesn’t have to have a meaning. Same with the other NAMES on the list. Words are made up at some point by someone in history anyways. Don’t have meaning until we give it one.

  14. I read that “OK” was a political slogan for a candidate with the nickname “Old Kinderhooks.”

  15. There should be a top list of the many times Simon Whistler mispronounced a word. For example, the Ginsu commercials clearly pronounced the G , like Gill. It's annoying to hear every video with obvious mispronounciations. Do your research and stop sounding stupid on YouTube. Ricardo MonTALbon? Really? OMG! It's MONtalbon.

  16. Some of these words are names for products/companies. Those words should probably not have made it to this list. A name doesn't need to mean something.

    Aren't there lots of products out there with unique, meaningless names?

  17. The word Quiz was introduced as a bet. The bet was that a guy could get a word intorduced into the English language.
    He then went around graffiti ing "Quiz?" In Dublin I think untill it caught on

  18. SOS is not a word, it is a character. VIsual representation never was a consideration. You are entirely correct that the sound is unique and that is all that ever mattered.

  19. Wtf yall trippin wifi would of caught on if it was yellow shard sickle, midget infection lol wifi was gonna work no matter what.

  20. Including a map of Denmark is not lying about anything. Actually claiming that the ice cream is made in Denmark is. Letting people assume that it's made in Denmark just because you put a map there, is not. That would be no different than people assuming that little Caesars pizza is originally from Rome.

  21. Halitosis is in the medical dictionary.. As a condition that causes bad breath. So…….. There you go

  22. OMG really??! O. K isn't a word. But OKAY is.. They just wrote it out as OK because that is exactly how OKAY is pronounced.. Same way people use U instead of YOU, and sometimes R instead of ARE . CHRIST MAN

  23. I really wish the word gay could go back to meaning happy and not a perverted life style or of something that is totally lame.

  24. Well, if you want to say SOS doesn't mean save our ship, that's fine. You would be wrong however.

  25. "OK" is the acronym for "Old Kinderhook" – the nickname assigned to president Martin Van Buren, who hailed from Kinderhook, NY. When he signed a bill into law, it was said that he put his "OK" on it, and now it has become a word used in many languages around the world.

  26. "Corinthian" leather is like "Tuscan" food – any kind of food, whether people in Tuscany eat it or not. It's a word used to make it sound like it's a primo quality of whatever.

  27. Simon, you might have noticed I have opinions beyond what are put forth in this video and comments. Let me explain. Some years ago, I was the personal assistant for a distinguished English professor from Loyola University. As he had become disabled, a lot of things he once did himself were now assigned to me, like going to his thirty pound Oxford English Dictionary to research words the origins of which he'd become obsessed with finding. I became infected with his passion for that, too.

  28. How can something "Corinthian" be said to be of Spanish origin when Corinth is a city in the Greek Peloponnesus? "Corinthians" in the nautical sense, however, denote "pleasure sailors" because of the legendary fondness of the Corinthian people for using sailing as a means of getting around.

  29. IEEE 802.11 had nothing to do with WiFi. WiFi used the protocol but saying that the protocol was created for WiFi is about the same as saying that diesel was created to run my truck.

  30. Generally, if a word is widely and distinctively understood, then it is a real word…
    That's how words work… They're all made up… D'oh!

  31. English is a lie. America, we must all speak the language of the Kaw now, because their name starts with K which is a most superiour letter. And no language so dominated by such a letter could ever decieve us.

  32. "Kodak couldn't be mistaken for any other word"

    Tell that to me and everyone else named Kodiak who keep getting the foreseeable-from-a-mile-away jokes about cameras

  33. i remember as a kid whenever i would say okay in my families home country of Peru they would be like "what" i use to think it meant yes or right i still use it to this day just a habit but recently they have also started to use the word but how ridiculed i was for saying it about 15 years ago

  34. A rare floater from you guys. Meaning and reference are the same thing. Once we begin using any configuration of letters to refer to a thing we all recognize that, then, IS its meaning and that MAKES it a word. This one was poorly conceived.

  35. How about Thagomizer, which was made up by Gary Larson for a cartoon, and is now used by paleontologists?

  36. SOS -The only song to make the top 10 that had a palindrome for it's name that was by a group that also 
    had a palindrome for their name.

  37. You mispronounced Ricardo Montalban's name. This is not the first time that you have made that mistake. How about doing a little research before you do these recordings.

  38. To the guy who gets paid to talk and talk and talk … ole Rico’s last name is pronounced MON-tol-ban. Not mon-TOL-ban.

  39. I've heard Ricardo Montalban say Corinthian leather and it actually does make you want to buy the car.

  40. I seem to remember in school the proper spelling being "okay " and "ok" was an abbreviation. Not sure where "okay" originated from but suprised it wasn't mentioned.

  41. Idaho was probably three words slurred together. Someone asks what's the name of this place to a local with a bad accent and the local says, "Idontknow".

  42. I used to have a kodiac magnum 50 caliber rifle. I believe kodiac is a kind of bear maybe. Except there is no i so i guess he got the hell out of there…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *