By Liora Halperin

Liora Halperin is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Colorado Boulder. In her spare time, she enjoys investigating etymologies and word histories.

  1. Until the late 1920s, air was not conditioned, though it was circulated through fan blades. Thereafter, scientists developed a means for creating a cooling effect through the evaporation of chemical substances. Conditioning, or taking action to put something in a better condition, comes from a rather simple Latin word, condicere, or "to speak with." That which was spoken between two parties became a “condition,” and came to refer to a more formal stipulation made to…

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  2. It’s rhubarb season. I just had a fantastic margarita made with rhubarb tea, which is best consumed on a rooftop terrace, which is where I happened to be. You may be wondering about such an odd sounding name. If you thought that that initial RH marked a Greek origin, you would be right, but the etymology is more curious than you might expect. When Carl Linnaeus went about giving scientific names to plants, he…

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  3. The iconic popsicle has one of those “accidental” creation stories that we love (not unlike the truffle.) As the apocryphal story has it, one day in 1905, a ten-year-old boy named Frank Epperson left a cup filled with powdered soda, water, and a stirrer on his porch on a cold winter night. Did he do that by accident, or was he experimenting during the winter with frozen summer snacks? Unclear. In any case,…

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