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 ...

Latest News

flash in the pan – rater

flash in the pan – rater

  the components of a flintlock mechanism – photograph: Wikipedia       MEANING   A flash in the pan is a thing or person whose sudden but brief success is not repeated or repeatable.     ORIGIN   In old-fashioned firearms such as flintlocks, the main charge of gunpowder was filled in the barrel, […]

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dog in the manger

dog in the manger

  The Dog in the Manger, from The Fables of Æsop selected, told anew and their history traced (1894), by Joseph Jacobs – illustrated by Richard Heighway       MEANING   A person who prevents others from having or using things even though he or she does not need them     ORIGIN   […]

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to pull one’s weight

to pull one’s weight

  In The Golden Days, by Hugh R. Riviere (1869-1956) image: Hear The Boat Sing       MEANING   to do one’s fair share of work     ORIGIN   To pull an oar, or simply to pull, is to row. In The Early History of Oxford (1859), the historian John Richard Green (1837-83) […]

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red-letter day

red-letter day

  Calendar page for December from an illuminated Book of Hours (circa 1460). Special feasts are marked out in red ink. Photograph: University of Glascow Amongst the notable feasts for December, as shown here, are Saint Nicholas (December 6), the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8) and Saint Nicasius (December 14). To the […]

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to sell down the river

to sell down the river

  USA slave sale poster – photograph: Commonwealth Online       MEANING   to betray someone, especially so as to benefit oneself     ORIGIN   The phrase to sell down the river originates in the history of American slavery: the river was the Mississippi and down implied the transfer of slaves from north […]

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put a sock in it!

put a sock in it!

  This cartoon by Bert Thomas (1883-1966) for the British Ministry of Information during World War II illustrates the folk etymology of the phrase.       MEANING   stop talking!     ORIGIN   The earliest known mention of this phrase is in a letter published by the London literary magazine The Athenæum of […]

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touchstone

touchstone

  goldsmith’s touchstone carved with initials HB and the date 1642 photograph: Finch & Cº – Antiques & Works of Art     Touche stone to prove golde with John Palsgrave – Lesclarcissement de la langue francoyse (1530)       MEANING   A touchstone is a standard or criterion by which something is judged […]

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blue blood

blue blood

  The Third Estate carrying the Clergy and the Nobility on its back (late 18th-century French print) – Bibliothèque nationale de France A faut esperer q’eu.s jeu la finira bentot (= Il faut espérer que ce jeu-là finira bientôt, You should hope that this game will be over soon)       After the Reconquista, […]

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soccer

soccer

  Queen’s College Cambridge football team (1900-01)     Soccer football, as it is called in America, is the English Association Football, differing considerably from the other forms of English football (Rugby and Gaelic) and very markedly from the American Intercollegiate game. Handbook of Athletic Games for Players, Instructors, and Spectators, comprising fifteen major ball […]

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to turn turtle

to turn turtle

      MEANING   (chiefly of a boat): to turn upside down     ORIGIN   Sailors originally invented this phrase when they learnt to overturn the marine tortoise, or turtle, which is suitable for food, in order to immobilise it. The earliest known use of the phrase in this literal sense is in […]

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