The loss of the hyphen over time has simply clouded a very nice metaphor.
Dear Word Detective: Recently, the British television show "Antiques Roadshow" did a series from Australia. You said "whilst." That is such a cool word, and I wish it were commonly used here in the US.
Dear Word Detective: My office is having a raging argument over the creation of the word "Brainiac." One side says that the 1958 Superman comic coined the term, with the other side claims it was derived from the first computer, ENIAC. "Brainiac" was indeed a character introduced in Action Comics as a "supervillain" opponent of Superman in 1958.
The short answer to your question is that both sides are right, more or less.
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Evidently in the years since then there have been several modifications made to the "Brainiac" character and his "backstory," and the page dedicated to "Brainac" at Wikipedia (wikipedia.org) details the evolution of Brainiac in what strikes me as mind-numbing detail ("Pre-Crisis Brainiac in the Post-Crisis Universe"? Then again I'm probably the only kid in America who threw out his own comic books when he hit sixteen.
Evidently, however, when the folks at DC Comics introduced their new character, there was already a "Brainiac" on the market, a small kit for building rudimentary computers, aimed at home experimenters.
Even if this were truly the practice at the time (and there is no evidence that it was), this theory doesn't exactly match up with the meaning of "fail or succumb." Sounds more like persevering to me.In any case, the DC folks apparently derived "Brainiac" by blending "brain" with "maniac," and only later, as noted above, was Brainiac depicted as being computer-like.The name of the Brainiac kit, however, was clearly modeled on ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the first truly practical large-scale computer put into operation in 1946 and employed in the design of the hydrogen bomb.It sounds as if the presenter (what we call a "host") nearly had a nervous breakdown when confronted with "fossick." "Fossick" is indeed a quintessentially Australian word, and its original meaning does hark back to your country's gold rush in the 19th century."Fossicking" was essentially what we would call "scrounging" for gold -- searching unattended, abandoned or depleted gold mining sites for the bits left behind, small nuggets that had to be pried out of crevices or picked from streams.