MAHARAJAH


This word first entered the English language in 1698, when John Fryer used it in A New Account of East India and Persia. It comes from two Sanskrit words: maha, “great,” and raja, “prince,” and was used by the inhabitants of India itself to describe any very powerful and wealthy ruling prince. 

The India of 1698 was largely a land of mystery to the English, whose chief contact with the large subcontinent at that time was through the East India Company, chartered by Queen Elizabeth I in the year 1600. By the end of that century, the company was doing a brisk business in Bombay, Madras and Calcutta and was casting covetous glances at the riches of the interior. In order to protect its trade, the officers of the company allied themselves with Native troops and princes, who often managed to embroil the British in their own squabbles with neighbouring tribes and rulers.

 But direct British rule in India did not begin to take root until the latter half of the eighteenth century, and that was when a new synonym for maharajah managed to elbow its way into the English language: "Panjandrum".

TANK

Tank — a word of unknown origin — appeared in print in England in the early 1400s as a synonym for a wild carrot or parsnip, that use of the word died out, apparently before the end of the 1500s. When tank reappeared in English in 1616 to become a permanent member of the language, it was spelled tanque and referred to a pool or cistern used in the East Indies for holding water:

“Besides their Rivers, … they have many Ponds, which they call Tanques, … fill’d with water when that abundance of Rain fals.”

By 1690 it described an artificial receptacle for holding a large quantity of water or other fluid and was mentioned in that year by John Dryden in Don Sebastian:

“Here’s plentiful provision for you, Rascal, sallating in the Garden, and water in the tanck.” But in the early years of the twentieth century, tank acquired a new and deadly meaning. When World War I broke out in August 1914, soldiers marched off to the battlefield thinking they would be home by Christmas. How wrong they were. No one realized at the time that the rules of war had changed. No longer could you rout the enemy with a simple “Char-r-r-rrge!”

Now both sides could mow down advancing troops by the hundreds with a new weapon, the machine gun. Long before Christmas, the western front was a zigzag of trenches stretching from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. The war had become a deadlock, with the lives of countless soldiers being squandered in a vain attempt to pierce enemy lines. The Germans resorted to poison gas in the spring of 1915 to try to break the impasse, but had to abandon it because any sudden shift in the wind meant gassing one’s own troops. 

The British were working on the problem, too, and in 1915 built the first armour-plated motorized vehicles with caterpillar treads for crossing trenches. Winston Churchill was an early and eager advocate of these new vehicles, the development of which was a well-kept secret. The first of these vehicles were shipped to France in crates labelled “Tank” to deceive German agents into thinking they were water tanks. The name stuck.
                                   
                                               Source : 500 years of New Words by Bill Sherk

CARAT/CARET/CARROT/KARAT


"Carrots" are those crunchy orange vegetables Bugs Bunny is so fond of, but this spelling gets misused for the less familiar words which are pronounced the same but have very different meanings. Precious stones
like diamonds are weighed in carats. 

The same word is used to express the proportion of pure gold in an alloy, though in this usage it is sometimes spelled "karat" (hence the abbreviation "20K gold"). 

A caret is a proofreader's mark showing where something needs to be inserted, shaped like a tiny pitched roof. It looks rather like a French circumflex, but is usually distinct from it on modern computer keyboards. 

Carets are extensively used in computer programming. Just remember, if you can't eat it, it's not a carrot.

CALL THE QUESTION

       This is more a matter of parliamentary procedure than of correct English, but people are generally confused about what "calling the question" means. They often suppose that it means simply "let's vote!" and some even imagine that it is necessary to call for the question before a vote may be taken. You even see deferential meeting chairs pleading, "Would someone like to call for the question?" But "calling the question" when done properly should be a rare occurrence. 

          If debate has dragged on longer than you feel is really warranted, you can "call the question," at which time the chair has to immediately ask those assembled to vote to determine whether or not debate should be cut off or continue. 

       The motion to call the question is itself not debatable. If twothirds of those voting agree that the discussion should have died some time ago, they will support the call. Then, and only then, will the vote be taken on the question itself. Potentially this parliamentary maneuver would be a great way to shut down windy speakers who insist on prolonging a discussion when a clear consensus has already been arrived at; but since so few people understand what it means, it rarely works as intended. 

       Chairs: when someone "calls the question," explain what the phrase means and ask if that is what's intended. Other folks: you'll get further most of the time just saying "Let's vote!"