10 Places and the Words They Inspired

iStock.com/liveslow
iStock.com/liveslow

1. Buncombe County, North Carolina

Just before the U.S. House was set to vote on allowing Missouri into the Union in 1820, North Carolina Rep. Felix Walker requested a chance to speak. When his exhausted colleagues tried to cut him off, he told them that his speech wasn't actually for the House at all, but for his constituents in Buncombe County. It's unclear whether he was actually able to give the speech (in some versions of the story, he did; in others, he was cut off and simply had it printed in the newspaper), but the eventual text was nonsense to most observers and had little to do with the debate at hand. Soon, journalists and politicians were using the name of the county—Buncombe—to mean frivolous talk, a word that eventually evolved to "bunkum" and then "bunk."

2. The Maeander River

The Ancient Greeks named the river that runs through southwestern Turkey to the Aegean Sea the "Maeander River." Today it's known as the Buyuk Menderes River. But the original Greek name lives on in the English word "meander," or "to wander," after the river's many twists and turns.

3. Tuxedo Park, New York

The Tuxedo Park village in Orange County, New York, was home to a high society crowd around the turn of the 20th century, with names like Colgate, Astor and JP Morgan (even etiquette expert Emily Post spent time in Tuxedo Park and has been said to have based some of her work on the culture she saw there). But the town's biggest legacy is in the formal dinner jacket for men that bears its name. There are a number of stories about how the tail-less jacket became branded the "tuxedo," but they all boil down to the style being popularized in the town, then brought to the rest of New York.

4 and 5. Genoa, Italy, and Nimes, France

Genoa, Italy, became known for producing a certain type of cotton cloth. Sailors fond of the corduroy pants produced with the fabric named them after the city, calling them "jeans." The French would then attempt to recreate the fabric. They were unsuccessful, but one cloth made in the city of Nimes caught on for its similarities to the Genoa product. The new fabric would be called "Serge di Nimes," eventually shortened to just "denim."

6. Soli, Cilicia

Ancient Greeks looked down on the residents of Soli, one of their colonies in Cilicia, for speaking their own form of the Attic dialect. The Greeks would later begin to refer to a dialectical difference or error as "soloikizo" (the word shows up in Aristotle's "On Rhetoric"), leading to the English word "solecism" for a grammatical misuse. "Between you and I" and "irregardless" would be English examples of solecisms.

7. The Isle of Lesbos

Lesbos island in the Aegean Sea was home to the Greek poet Sappho, whose work centered on love and beauty applying to both genders. It was her writing about women that led to her island's name being associated with homosexuality and by 1890, the word "lesbian" was appearing in medical dictionaries to describe a relationship between two women. The island has now become a popular gay tourist spot, despite attempts by natives to dispel the reputation; three residents even went to court seeking to ban the use of the word to describe gay women, although the suit was thrown out in 2008.

8. Paisley, Scotland

The teardrop- (or mango-) shaped design known as paisley has a long history of use in Indian culture, both on jewelry and in textiles. When traders from India in the 17th century began bringing back Indian products, the design became very popular and some European producers started incorporating it into their work. Production eventually became largely centered around the town of Paisley in Scotland, where by 1800 several weavers were making scarves adorned with the pattern—and lending it its Western name.

9. Bikini Atoll

The Bikini Atoll, a group of 23 islands in the Marshall Islands, was best known as a nuclear bomb testing ground, home to some 23 tests between 1946 and 1958. It was that reputation that led to French automotive engineer Louis Reard to borrow the islands' name for his two-piece swimsuit. When he first produced the suit for a French clothing firm, legend has it he named it the "bikini" because the impact it would have on men would mirror the force of an atomic bomb.

10. Bengal, India

The name of the quintessentially California house—the one-storied bungalow—is actually derived from Hindi. The word comes from the Hindi word "Bangla," meaning literally "of Bengal" in reference to the then-Indian province. The word eventually came to refer to the houses that were typical of the region and was brought into English as "bungalow."

7 Massage Guns That Are on Sale Right Now

Jawku/Actigun
Jawku/Actigun

Outdoor exercise is a big focus leading into summer, but as you begin to really tone and strengthen your muscles, you might notice some tough knots and soreness that you just can’t kick. Enter the post-workout massage gun—these bad boys are like having a deep-tissue masseuse by your side whenever you want. If you're looking to pick one up for yourself, check out these brands while they’re on sale.

1. Actigun 2.0: Percussion Massager (Black); $128 (57 percent off)

Actigun massage gun.
Actigun

Don't assume you need a professional masseur to provide relief—this massage gun offers 20 variable speeds and can adjust the output power on its own according to pressure. Can your human massage therapist do that?

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2. JAWKU Muscle Blaster V2 Cordless Percussion Massage Gun; $260 (13 percent off)

Jawku massaging gun.
Jawku

This cordless, five-speed massager uses a design that's aimed to increase blood flow, release stored lactic acid, and relieve sore muscles through various vibrations.

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3. DEEP4s: Percussive Therapy Massage Gun for Athletes; $230 (23 percent off)

Re-Athlete massage gun.
Re-Athlete

Instant relief is an option with this massage tool, featuring five different attachments made to tackle any muscle group. You can squeeze in eight hours of massage time before you have to charge it again.

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4. Handheld Massage Gun for Deep Tissue Percussion; $75 (15 percent off)

Massage gun from Stackcommerce.
Stackcommerce

With five replaceable heads and six speed settings, this massage gun can easily adapt to the location and intensity of your soreness. And since it lasts up to three hours per charge, you won't have to worry about constantly plugging it in.

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5. The Backmate Power Massager; $120 (19 percent off)

Backmate massage gun.
Backmate

Speed is the name of the game here. The Backmate Power Massager is designed for fast, effective relief through its ergonomic design. Fast doesn’t need to mean short, either. After the instant relief, you can stimulate and distract your nervous system for lasting pain relief.

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6. ZTECH Percussion Massage Gun (Red); $80 (46 percent off)

ZTech massage gun.
ZTech

This massage gun looks a lot like a power drill, and, similarly, you can adjust its design for the perfect fit with six interchangeable heads that target different muscle areas.

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7. Aduro Sport Elite Recovery Massage Gun (Maroon); $80 (60 percent off)

Aduro massage gun.
Aduro

Tackle large muscle groups, the neck, Achilles tendon, joints, and small muscle areas with this single massage gun. Four massage heads and six intensity levels allow this tool to provide a highly customizable experience.

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This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.


The Racist Origins of 7 Common Phrases

Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup, Unsplash
Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup, Unsplash

Even the most nonsensical idioms in the English language originated somewhere. Some terms, like silver lining and tomfoolery, have innocuous roots, while other sayings date back to the darkest chapters in U.S. history. While these common phrases are rarely used in their original contexts today, knowing their racist origins casts them in a different light.

1. Tipping Point

This common phrase describes the critical point when a change that had been a possibility becomes inevitable. When it was popularized, according to Merriam-Webster, it was applied to one phenomenon in particular: white flight. In the 1950s, as white people abandoned urban areas for the suburbs in huge numbers, journalists began using the phrase tipping point in relation to the percentage of minority neighbors it took to trigger this reaction in white city residents. Tipping point wasn’t coined in the 1950s (it first appeared in print in the 19th century), but it did enter everyday speech during the decade thanks to this topic.

2. Long Time, No See

The saying long time, no see can be traced back to the 19th century. In a Boston Sunday Globe article from 1894, the words are applied to a Native American speaker. The broken English phrase was also used to evoke white people's stereotypical ideas of Native American speech in William F. Drannan’s 1899 book Thirty-One Years on the Plains and in the Mountains, Or, the Last Voice from the Plains An Authentic Record of a Life Time of Hunting, Trapping, Scouting and Indian Fighting in the Far West.

It's unlikely actual Native Americans were saying long time, no see during this era. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this type of isolating construction would have been unusual for the indigenous languages of North America. Rather, it originated as a way for white writers to mock Native American speech, and that of non-native English speakers from other places like China. By the 1920s, it had become an ordinary part of the American vernacular.

3. Mumbo Jumbo

Before it was synonymous with jargon or other confusing language, the phrase mumbo jumbo originated with religious ceremonies in West Africa. In the Mandinka language, the word Maamajomboo described a masked dancer who participated in ceremonies. Former Royal African Company clerk Francis Moore transcribed the name as mumbo jumbo in his 1738 book Travels into the Inland Parts of Africa. In the early 1800s, English speakers started to divorce the phrase from its African origins and apply it to anything that confused them.

4. Sold Down the River

Before the phrase sold down the river meant betrayal, it originated as a literal slave-trading practice. Enslaved people from more northerly regions were sold to cotton plantations in the Deep South via the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. For enslaved people, the threat of being “sold down the river” implied separation from family and a life of hard labor. A journal entry from April 1835 mentions a person who, “having been sold to go down the river, attempted first to cut off both of his legs, failing to do that, cut his throat, did not entirely take his life, went a short distance and drowned himself.”

5. No Can Do

Similar to long time, no see, no can do originated as a jab at non-native English speakers. According to the OED, this example was likely directed at Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century. Today, many people who use the phrase as general slang for "I can’t do that" are unaware of its cruel origins.

6. Indian Giver

Merriam-Webster defines an Indian giver as “a person who gives something to another and then takes it back.” One of the first appearances was in Thomas Hutchinson’s History of the Colony of Massachuset’s Bay in the mid 18th century. In a note, it says “An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected.” In the 19th century, the stereotype was transferred from the gift to the giver, the idea of an “equivalent return” was abandoned, and it became used as an insult. An 1838 N.-Y. Mirror article mentions the “distinct species of crimes and virtues” of schoolchildren, elaborating, "I have seen the finger pointed at the Indian giver. (One who gives a present and demands it back again.)" Even as this stereotype about indigenous people faded, the phrase Indian giver has persisted into the 21st century. The word Indian in Indian giver also denotes something false, as it does in the antiquated phrase Indian summer.

7. Cakewalk

In the antebellum South, some enslaved African Americans spent Sundays dressing up and performing dances in the spirit of mocking the white upper classes. The enslavers didn’t know they were the butt of the joke, and even encouraged these performances and rewarded the best dancers with cake, hence the name. Possibly because this was viewed as a leisurely weekend activity, the phrase cakewalk became associated with easy tasks. Cakewalks didn’t end with slavery: For decades, they remained (with cake prizes) a part of African American life, but at the same time white actors in blackface incorporated the act into minstrel shows, turning what began as a satire of white elites into a racist caricature of Black people.