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 of Matthew ...

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 :   Fils                   Fille ...

Secularism and religion in France

Secularism and religion in France

  As a French citizen, I’m always surprised that in Great Britain, State and Religion are linked. For example, it would be totally unthinkable in France that the Head of ...

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 ...
a fine kettle of fish

a fine kettle of fish

        The word kettle is from Old English cetel, cietel, of ...
‘Temptation’ in the Lord’s Prayer

‘Temptation’ in the Lord’s Prayer

  Notre Dame du Port – Clermont Ferrand (France)     To ...

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folklore

folklore

  This photograph of William John Thoms was published in the magazine The Academy of 11th November 1899. The folklore of the picture is that Thoms himself wrote the little poem on the back of this photograph when he presented it to his friend, George Laurence Gomme.   credit: Stephen Winick – Library of Congress […]

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jovial

jovial

        MEANING   The adjective jovial means cheerful and friendly.     ORIGIN   It is a borrowing from French jovial, originally meaning under the influence of the planet Jupiter, which as a natal planet was regarded as the source of joy and happiness. The French adjective first appeared in 1546 in […]

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bluestocking

bluestocking

  Benjamin Stillingfleet, by Johann Zoffany     MEANING   A bluestocking is an intellectual or literary woman.     ORIGIN   The term blue stocking originally alluded to blue stockings as worn by men, specifically cheap blue worsted stockings as opposed to more expensive and formal white silk stockings. Originally, blue stocking was particularly […]

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Chester-Le-Street

Chester-Le-Street

  Chester-Le-Street – Front Street photograph: Wikimedia Commons/John Blackburne       The obsolete noun chester denoted a city or walled town. It is from Old English ceaster, from Latin castra, a plural neuter meaning camp. The noun chester has often been applied to places in Britain which had originally been Roman encampments. This is […]

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bridegroom

bridegroom

  Imogen discovered in the cave of Belarius by George Dawe (1781-1829)     MEANING   A bridegroom is a man on his wedding day or just before and after the event.     ORIGIN   The Old English noun brýdguma meant bridegroom. It was composed of brýd, bride, and guma, man. (The element guma […]

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manifesto

manifesto

  cover of Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (first edition of February 1848, London)       The archaic Latin verb fendere meant to strike, and its past participle festus, struck. They only survived in compounds such as: – defendere (the prefix de- meaning off): primary sense: to ward off attack, […]

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orient

orient

  The Latin verb oriri meant, of persons, to rise, bestir oneself, get up, and, of heavenly bodies, to rise, become visible. Hence, as a noun, the present participle oriens/orientis denoted the rising sun and the quarter where the sun rises, the East, the Orient, as opposed to occidens/occidentis, the West, the Occident (the Latin […]

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‘pie’

‘pie’

  mincemeat pie photograph: André Baranowski (saveur.com)     MEANING   A pie is a baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry.     ORIGIN   The word, which appeared in the early 14th century, is of uncertain origin. (No further related word is known outside […]

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spin doctor

spin doctor

  William Safire photograph: Diana Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image     MEANING   A spin doctor (also spinster) is a spokesperson employed to give a favourable interpretation of events to the media, especially on behalf of a political party. And a spinmeister is a spin doctor, especially an accomplished or politically powerful one.   […]

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gorgeous

gorgeous

  Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburgh by Rembrandt (1606-69)     MEANINGS   The adjective gorgeous now means beautiful, very attractive; very pleasant or enjoyable. Its original meaning was, of persons then of things, adorned with rich or brilliant colours, splendid, showy, magnificent.     ORIGIN   Dating back to the late 15th century, gorgeous is from […]

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