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Why Do We Call Weights "Bells"?

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The various “bells” we see at the gym today—dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells—are inspired by actual bells, and not just metaphorically. Yes, they are made of heavy metal and can be swung like a bell, but they can also be traced back to a fitness craze of the 1700s involving an artificial church bell.

Have you ever tried to ring a giant medieval church bell? They are heavy! Ringing one not only requires general upper body strength, but also coordinated control of that strength. How does one develop that strength and control? Practicing on the bells for a few hours a day? Your village may not enjoy that. That’s why the dumb bell—a contraption that mimicked the weight and motion of bell ringing but produced no sound—was invented. It looked something like this

Drawing from History and Art of Change Ringing by Ernest Morris, from site of John Richard Norris

There was apparently a more portable version of this apparatus, used for home exercise. The first citation for “dumb-bell” in the OED, from 1711, states:  “I exercise myself an Hour every Morning upon a dumb Bell, that is placed in a corner of my room…My Landlady and her daughters…never come into my room to disturb me while I am ringing.” When Ben Franklin mentioned the dumb bell in 1774 as a type of “compendious exercise” which he used to keep fit, it is unclear what sort of equipment he was referring to—it may have looked more like a hand-held bell without a clapper or a modern dumbbell. In any case, by the 19th century the dumbbell as we know it, looking very little like a bell, had become the standard. The names for the barbell and kettlebell, formed on analogy, came later.

Will the bell-ringing workout come back? In the past few years, the benefits of bell ringing have gotten some fresh attention. Not only are experts recommending an exercise called the Bell Tower Crunch, but you can try a bell ringing fitness class, or even buy your own old school dumbbell for home use. Quasimodo may have had a hunchback, but you can bet he also had some killer abs, pecs, and lats.

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Words
How New Words Become Mainstream
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If you used the words jeggings, muggle, or binge-watch in a sentence 30 years ago, you would have likely been met with stares of confusion. But today these words are common enough to hold spots in the Oxford English Dictionary. Such lingo is a sign that English, as well as any other modern language, is constantly evolving. But the path a word takes to enter the general lexicon isn’t always a straightforward one.

In the video below, TED-Ed lays out how some new words become part of our everyday speech while others fade into obscurity. Some words used by English speakers are borrowed from other languages, like mosquito (Spanish), avatar (Sanskrit), and prairie (French). Other “new” words are actually old ones that have developed different meanings over time. Nice, for example, used to only mean silly, foolish, or ignorant, and meat was used as blanket term to describe any solid food given to livestock.

The internet alone is responsible for a whole new section of our vocabulary, but even the words most exclusive to the web aren’t always original. For instance, the word meme was first used by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

To learn more about the true origins of the words we use on a regular basis, check out the full story from TED-Ed below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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Live Smarter
Why You Should Drop 'Kind of' and 'Sort of' From Your Vocabulary
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How many times have you heard something like this before: “I sort of agree” or “I just kind of wish you had asked me before making that decision.” People tend to couch phrases in qualifying language to protect someone else’s feelings or to protect themselves when they say something that’s potentially inaccurate or makes them feel vulnerable. But no matter how safe and comfortable those words make you feel, they only end up confusing your listeners and hurting your reputation.

Fast Company includes “kind of” and “sort of” on their list of expressions that make you sound like you have no idea what you’re talking about. When you preface a sentence with those words, you’re immediately letting your audience know that they shouldn’t fully trust whatever comes next. Not only does this discredit you as a leader or a confidant, it obscures any feedback or request you were hoping to convey.

“Sort of” and “kind of” aren’t the only crutches insecure speakers love to lean on. Other offenders on Fast Company’s list include “maybe,” “possibly,” “potentially,” and “I’m not sure, but … ”

If qualifiers make poor security blankets, what strategies should speakers use to communicate with confidence? One way is to replace filler words and passive past-tense language with strong action verbs. That way your message will come across clearly and better persuade whomever you're speaking to. If the thought of talking this way terrifies you, try some preemptive confidence exercises before going into your next big meeting or confronting a friend or partner. Working out, practicing power poses, and even checking your own Facebook wall are all ways you can boost your self-image in a pinch.

[h/t Fast Company]

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