Indian summer – l’été sauvage

Indian summer – l’été sauvage

  St. John de Crèvecœur, after the portrait by Vallière, 1786         MEANING   a period of unusually calm dry warm weather, often accompanied by a hazy ...

P’s and Q’s

P’s and Q’s

  P’s and Q’s – A Book on the Art of Letter Arrangement (1923), by Sallie B. Tannahill – photograph: Thorn Books       MEANINGS   – to be ...

La langue française est-elle misogyne ?

La langue française est-elle misogyne ?

  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   ...

Highlights

a pretty kettle of fish

a pretty kettle of fish

  photograph: The Grocer     MEANING   The phrase a pretty ...
point-blank – de but en blanc

point-blank – de but en blanc

  Gunner’s quadrant Quadrant consisting of two arms of unequal length joined ...
‘Temptation’ in the Lord’s Prayer

‘Temptation’ in the Lord’s Prayer

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

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strawberry preacher

    In A notable Sermō of yᵉ reuerende father Maister Hughe Latemer, whiche he preached in yᵉ Shrouds at paules churche in Londō, on the .xviii. daye of January. 1548., Hugh Latimer (circa 1485-1555), English Protestant prelate and martyr, thus criticised the members of the clergy who did not reside in the places required […]

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small beer

    MEANING   person(s) or matter(s) of little or no importance     ORIGIN   Since the early 14th century, the adjective small has been used to mean of low alcoholic strength. For example, The Forme of Cury¹, a roll of English cookery, compiled around 1390 by the master cooks of Richard II, contains […]

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‘loot’

‘loot’

  Ludewig appraises tray which newlyweds want to swap for cooker from Life, 13th September 1954       MEANINGS   – noun: goods stolen during pillaging, as in wartime, during riots, etc. – goods, money, etc., obtained illegally – verb: to pillage (a city, settlement, etc.) during war or riots – to steal (money or […]

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to smell a rat

    MEANING   to detect something suspicious     ORIGIN   The first known use of this phrase is in The Image of Ipocrysy, an anonymous poem written around 1540, denouncing “the cruell clergy”: (published in 1843) Suche be owr [= our] primates, Our bisshopps and prelates, Our parsons and curates, With other like […]

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the slough of despond

the slough of despond

  The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World, to That which is to come Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream Wherein is Discovered, The Manner of his setting out, His Dangerous Journey, and Safe Arrival at the Desired Countrey (1679 edition) – image: The British Library       MEANING   a state of extreme […]

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pigs might fly

pigs might fly

  Alice (with flamingo) chats with the Duchess illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914)     “Thinking again?” the Duchess asked, with another dig of her sharp little chin. “I’ve a right to think,” said Alice sharply, for she was beginning to feel a little worried. “Just about as much right,” said the Duchess, “as pigs […]

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gas and gaiters

gas and gaiters

  Mysterious appearance of the gentleman in the small-clothes illustration by “PHIZ” for the first edition of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby     “It’s all right, Bertie.” “She loves you still?” “Yes.” “Good.” “She wept on my chest.” “Fine.” “And said she was sorry she had been cross. I said ‘There, there!’ […]

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all Sir Garnet

all Sir Garnet

  Sir Garnet Wolseley from The Illustrated Police News (London) of Saturday 21st June 1879       MEANING   highly satisfactory; all right     ORIGIN   This phrase is from the name of Sir Garnet Wolseley (1833-1913), field-marshal and commander-in-chief of the British army, who conducted several successful military expeditions in the Sudan […]

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long (or strong) arm

    MEANING   far-reaching power or influence     ORIGIN   The earlier expression long hands was originally after classical Latin an nescis longas regibus esse manus?, used by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC – circa 17 AD) in the epistolary poems Epistulæ Heroidum, (Letters of Heroines). While her husband, King Menelaus, is away, Helen […]

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to chance one’s arm

    MEANING   British, informal: to undertake something although it may be dangerous or unsuccessful     ORIGIN   This phrase is first attested in the late 19th century. The Daily News (London) of Monday 13th November 1899 published the following explanation, which seems to allude to a comedian impersonating Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941), English soldier […]

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