‘Temptation’ in the Lord’s Prayer

‘Temptation’ in the Lord’s Prayer

  Notre Dame du Port – Clermont Ferrand (France)         To this day I suckle at the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and as an old man ...

The resistible rise of Marine Le Pen

The resistible rise of Marine Le Pen

     The new, reassuring face of old extremism       Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Gospel ...

La langue française est-elle sexiste ?

La langue française est-elle sexiste ?

    You can read the article in English here Vous pouvez lire l’article en anglais ici       Considérons les termes français suivants, avec leurs équivalents anglais :   ...

Highlights

point-blank – de but en blanc

point-blank – de but en blanc

  Gunner’s quadrant Quadrant consisting of two arms of unequal length joined ...
to buttonhole

to buttonhole

            The verb buttonhole not only means ...
a fine kettle of fish

a fine kettle of fish

            The word kettle is from Old ...

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no room to swing a cat

no room to swing a cat

  The theatre of punishment on board a Royal Navy warship around 1800 A man has been lashed to a grating (a hatch cover open for ventilation) to be flogged with the infamous cat-o’-nine- tails. The marines are drawn up on the quarterdeck with loaded muskets to ensure the punishment is carried out. Another man […]

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to be fed up

to be fed up

        To be fed up is to be annoyed, unhappy, or bored, especially with a situation that has existed for a long time.   The original image is simply to be sated with food, as to feed up an animal or a person is to supply them with rich and abundant food. […]

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to pay through the nose

to pay through the nose

  credit: Mike and Shelley’s French Adventures       MEANING   To pay through the nose means to pay excessively, to be charged exorbitantly.      FOLK ETYMOLOGIES   Many origins have been given and several of them are fanciful. Anatoly Liberman, the ‘Oxford etymologist’, derides them all here. Unfortunately, Mr Liberman then accepts as […]

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to beggar belief

to beggar belief

  original illustration for Scribbleomania; Or, The Printer’s Devil’s Polichronicon (1815) by William Henry Ireland (Amabilis insania et mentis gratissimus error: A delightful insanity and a most pleasing error of the mind)     The phrase to beggar belief (or description) means to be too extraordinary to be believed (or described).   The literal meaning of […]

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Mild oaths

Mild oaths

  Jiminy Cricket in the 1940 Walt Disney animated film Pinocchio       Substitutes for sacred names were used in order to avoid profanity. The exclamation of surprise crikey is a euphemism for Christ. It seems to have appeared in print in the early 19th century. The earliest examples that I could find are […]

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a nod’s as good as a wink

a nod’s as good as a wink

    A nod is as good as a wink… to a blind horse a 1971 album by the British rock group Faces       A nod’s as good as a wink is a proverb used to convey that a hint or suggestion can be or has been understood without the need of further […]

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to play gooseberry – tenir la chandelle

to play gooseberry – tenir la chandelle

        A gooseberry is a third person in the company of two people, especially lovers, who would prefer to be alone. The word is especially used in the phrase to play gooseberry.   This figurative use of gooseberry appeared in the early 19th century: a gooseberry was a chaperon, someone who ‘played propriety’ […]

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to set someone’s teeth on edge

to set someone’s teeth on edge

    John Wycliffe (circa 1330-84) Wycliffe was an English religious reformer. He criticised the wealth and power of the Church and upheld the Bible as the sole guide for doctrine. His teachings were disseminated by itinerant preachers and are regarded as precursors of the Reformation. Wycliffe instituted the first English translation of the complete Bible. […]

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to egg on

to egg on

  acacia (credit: Stan Shebs)       To egg someone on is to encourage them to do something foolish or risky.   This verb has nothing to do with eggs. It is from Old Norse eggja, to incite, itself related to the English noun edge and to the German noun Ecke, corner.   These […]

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cootie

cootie

  detail of an illustration for One Thousand Objects for the Microscope (1869), by M. C. Cooke (8: the coot louse)       The word cootie, meaning a body louse, seems to have originated in the trenches and is first recorded in 1917. Two other related words, coot meaning louse and cooty meaning infested with lice, are attested earlier, […]

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