etymology - Why is it "how come" and not "why come"? - English Language &

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** Why is it “how come” and not “why come”? **

up vote 1 down vote favorite
When someone asks "How come?", the person answering actually answers the
question "why?". "Why?" and "How?" are very different questions. I was
wondering how "how come?" came to be an alternative way of asking "why?".
Perhaps "how come?" is short form for something else?

I'm trying to understand the reason the word "how" came to be used in the
phrase "how come". Why not use "what come", "who come", "when come" or "why

etymology questions

share|improve this question
edited Jul 12 '11 at 22:52
asked Jul 12 '11 at 20:43

Looks like a duplicate of – mmyers Jul
12 '11 at 20:47

I think the OP is trying to figure out the history of the phrase, rather
than when to use each. – simchona♦ Jul 12 '11 at 20:50

* 3 Answers *

active oldest votes

up vote 6 down vote accepted
There is a solid discussion of this question (why does "how come" mean
"why") on Word Detective.

First, the article says that your hunch that "how come" is short for
something else is correct:


The final piece of the puzzle of “how come” is the fact that it
is actually


how come etymology

List of common false etymologies - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


** List of common false etymologies **

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

/This incomplete list is not intended to be exhaustive./

This is a list of current, widespread, fallacious ideas and beliefs about
the origins (or etymologies) of common English words.


· 1 Obscenities
· 2 Ethnic slurs
· 3 Acronyms
· 4 Other
· 5 See also
· 6 References


· The word "fuck" did not originate in Christianized Anglo-Saxon England
as an acronym of "Fornication Under Consent of King"; nor did it originate
as an acronym of "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge", either as a sign posted
above adulterers in the stocks, or as a criminal charge against members of
the British Armed Forces; nor did it originate during the 15th-century
Battle of Agincourt as a corruption of "pluck yew" (an idiom falsely
attributed to the English for drawing a longbow).^[1]^[2]^[3]Modern English
was not spoken until the 16th century, and words such as "fornication" and
"consent" did not exist in any form in English until the influence of
Anglo-Norman in the late 12th century. The earliest recorded use of "fuck"
in English comes from c. 1475, in the poem "Flen flyys", where it is
spelled /fuccant/ (conjugated as if a Latin verb meaning "they fuck"). It
is of Proto-Germanic origin, and is related to Dutch fokken and Norwegian
· "Fuck you/V sign" This folk etymology centers on archers who had their
middle fingers removed in medieval times to keep them from properly aiming
their arrows. English longbow archers caught by the enemy at Agincourt
supposedly would have had their bow fingers amputated, since at that time
the longbow was a devastating weapon and gave a great tactical advantage


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