Tuesday, May 17, 2022

UGLY WEEK: WORD & PHRASE ORIGINS

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The ugly stick:

According to the Urban Dictionary, the ugly stick is a stick that has the magical property of turning anyone touched with it, ugly. A beating from the ugly stick will have a much more severe effect than just a casual touch.

Sample expression:

He’s so ugly, he’s been hit by the ugly stick too many times.

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The Ugly Tree:

Ugly sticks are rumoured to come from ugly trees, which in turn can be found clumped together in ugly forests.

Sample expressions:

Bloody hell, she fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

She must have come out of the ugly forest to get here and hit every tree on the way out.

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The word “ugly” comes from the Scandanavian Old Norse “uglike” in the 13th century where it had meanings of frightful or horrible in appearance, giving rise to “uggligr “ meaning dreadful, fearful," and “uggr” meaning fear, apprehension and dread. The meaning of very unpleasant to look at dates from the late 14th century.

The expression “ugly duckling” is from the story by Hans Christian Andersen, first translated from Danish to English in 1846.

The term “Ugly American”, meaning a US citizen who behaves offensively abroad, was first recorded 1958 as a book title.

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I have been unable to determine the origin or the first usage of the expressions ugly stick and ugly tree.

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Wikipedia records that ugly stick is also a traditional Newfoundland musical instrument fashioned out of household and tool shed items, typically a mop handle with bottle caps, tin cans, small bells and other noise makers. The instrument is played with a drum stick or notched stick and has a distinctive sound. The ugly stick likely only became familiar to Newfoundland and Labrador audiences in the early 1980s.

An example of the Newfoundland ugly stick.

If that looks and sounds similar, think Australian lagerphone, where it is so named fore the beer bottle caps fixed to the broom handle, used by Australian folk groups:



There are even similar aboriginal instruments made using shells instead of bottle caps.

The ugly stick musical instrument name is not related to the other expressions.

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A story about an ugly tree in a forest:

Once, a big forest had many trees. There were trees like the fir, pine and several others.

They were all happy as Christmas was near. But there was also a crooked tree in the forest.

He was ugly and had grown very old. The other trees did not like him. They made fun of him and said, “You spoil the beauty of the entire forest.

All the other trees are lovely but you are extremely ugly.”

The crooked tree felt hurt, but did not say anything.

One day, the Queen sent her men in the forest to gather wood to make furniture for the palace.

The men cut all the trees for wood.

When they came to the crooked tree, they thought, ‘This tree is not good for furniture. Let us leave it.”

The crooked tree was relieved.

He thanked God for his ugly looks as it saved his life!

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