... from the book Everything You Know about English is Wrong, by Bill Brohaugh:
- Bull, meaning the same thing as horse feathers (nonsense, hooha, bull hockey, codswallop, claptrap, etc.) is not a shortening of bullshit. Bull descends from the Old French word, bouler, which means to deceive. Mom points out that people like to change expressions to make them include swears that don't belong. As in laughing my head off makes sense as an expression, where laughing my ass off does not. I'm not sure if that's the case here, though.
- Bonfire descends from the Middle English banefire, a fire in which they burned the bones of witches. Which, much like gorilla, is a pretty grisly origin for a thing we now sit around and watch for fun.
- Grisly, by the way, to wander away from Brohaugh for a second, descends from the Old English grislic, meaning dreadful. Grizzly means grey. The grizzly bear, however, was so named, not because it was grey but because it was grisly. Seriously, English, you're a silly, silly language.
- Quick, as it is used in expressions like quick wit, quicksand, and quicksilver doesn't refer to speed; it means "alive." Quicksilver is silver that seems to move of its own volition. Quicksand is sand that eats you, and a quick wit is a lively wit. Also, quicksand, according to howstuffworks.com, doesn't really eat you. It's not usually deep enough, for one thing, usually only a couple feet or so. Also, quicksand is even more dense than water, so if you just lay back, you'll float.