Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Search: card sharp
Why: It is one of the 100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English.
Answer: According to the prevailing etymological theory, the term "shark," originally meaning "parasite" or "one who preys upon others" (cf. loan shark), derives from German Schorke/Schurke ("rogue" or "rascal"), as did the English word "shirk[er]." "Sharp" developed in the 17th century from this meaning of "shark" (as apparently did the use of "shark" as a name for the fish), but the phrase "card sharp" prefigures the variant "card shark."
The More You Know: Apparently persnickety is an incorrect spelling: "It is a Scottish nonce word to which U.S. speakers have added a spurious s," but only a persnickety foreigner would get all riled up about something like that. I had a book called Persnickety when I was a youngster.