Originally posted on TED Blog:
Before a ‘clue’ became a thing that excited a detective, the word referred to a ball of yarn. So how did this shift in meaning occur? Because in Greek mythology, Ariadne threw a ball of yarn to Theseus before he entered the minotaur’s labyrinth. Theseus unrolled the yarn behind him as he traveled into the deadly maze — then used it to find his way out.
Word derivation trivia is always fun to unleash at a party. And you’ll find lots more of it in the TED-Ed series Mysteries of the Vernacular, from Jessica Oreck and Rachael Teel. Each lesson in this dictionary-thumping series tells the unusual origin story of a common word. In the end, there will be 26 lessons total– one representing each letter of the alphabet.