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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muggins

muggins

  a Toby jug by Ralph Wood the Younger (1748-95) photograph: Victoria and Albert Museum     MEANING   A muggins is a foolish and gullible person. The word is often used humorously to refer to oneself.     ORIGIN   In colloquial usage since the mid-19th century, this word is perhaps a use of […]

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éminence grise

éminence grise

  François Leclerc du Tremblay       The French term éminence grise, literally grey eminence, is used in English and French to designate a person who exercises power or influence in a certain sphere without holding an official position. It was originally applied to François Leclerc du Tremblay (1577-1638), known as Père Joseph. A […]

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no man’s land

no man’s land

  The shell-blasted landscape – circa 1916 photograph: National Army Museum     The earlier form of no man’s land was none man’s land and both originally denoted a piece of waste or unowned land, an uninhabited or desolate area. None man’s land appeared as early as 1086 in the Domesday Book, the comprehensive record […]

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mountebank

mountebank

  Caroline Fair, or Mat Pudding and his Mountebank (1821) attributed to Theodore Lane (National Portrait Gallery)       MEANING   A mountebank is a charlatan, a person who deceives others, especially in order to trick them out of their money.     ORIGIN   This noun was derived from the Italian montambanco, or […]

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cold call

cold call

  photograph: Which? – Ten tips to stop cold calls     The noun cold call denotes an unsolicited visit or telephone call made by someone trying to sell goods or services. Here, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1989), cold means without preparation, preliminary performance, etc. It was originally an American usage; the earliest quote in this dictionary is […]

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maelstrom

maelstrom

  The Maelstrom on a clear day (The islands of Mosken and Værøy can be seen in the distance.) photograph: Lofoten Islands       This English noun originated in the early-modern Dutch maelstrom (now maalstroom). It was originally a proper name designating a strong and dangerous current flowing between two of the Lofoten islands […]

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‘noon’

‘noon’

  High Noon 1952 American Western film directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper       The noun noon, which appeared in Old English as non, is from the classical Latin nona, short for nona hora, ninth hour, a noun use of the feminine singular of nonus, ninth. The meanings of Latin nona […]

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‘rum’

‘rum’

  Captain Roberts’ Crew carousing at Old Calabar River from The Pirates Own Book (1837) by Charles Ellms       The noun rum, denoting an alcoholic spirit distilled from molasses and other sugar-cane products, is first attested in 1654 in Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut: Berbados Liquors, commonly called Rum, Kill Deuill […]

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monger

monger

  The Fish Stall (La Pescheria), by Bartolomeo Passerotti (1529-92) Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini, Roma       The noun monger appeared in Old English in forms such as mangere and mangare. It was not only, as it is now, used as a combining form denoting a dealer or trader in […]

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brandy

brandy

  The Grand Master; or, Adventures of Qui Hi? in Hindostan. A Hudibrastic Poem in Eight Cantos by Quiz (1816) – illustration by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) (photograph: Julie L. Mellby – Princeton University Library)       The noun brandy appeared around 1640. Its original forms were brandwine and brandewine, from Dutch brandewijn, burnt (= […]

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