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

white elephant

white elephant

  a royal white elephant (Thai painting)       MEANING   A white elephant is a burdensome or costly objective, enterprise, or possession, especially one that appears magnificent.     ORIGIN   FALSE ORIGIN   According to a widespread theory, this figurative sense of white elephant refers to the story that the kings of Siam (now Thailand) would make […]

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sourpuss – glamour puss

sourpuss – glamour puss

    Puss [u sounded as in ‘full’]; the mouth and lips, always used in dialect in an offensive or contemptuous sense:—“What an ugly puss that fellow has.” “He had a puss on him,” i.e. he looked sour or displeased—with lips contracted. I heard one boy say to another:—“I’ll give you a skelp (blow) on […]

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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 on one’s P’s and Q’s and variants: to be on one’s best behaviour; to be at one’s best, on top form – to mind, or […]

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rickshaw

rickshaw

  jinrikishas, from The Gist of Japan (1897), by the Reverend R. B. Peery     The English noun rickshaw is a shortening of the Japanese jinrikisha, which seems to have first appeared in English in A Ramble Round the World, 1871 (1874), the translation by Mary Elizabeth Herbert (1822-1911) of Promenade autour du monde, 1871 […]

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to chop and change

to chop and change

  photograph of William Makepeace Thackeray by Jesse Harrison Whitehurst       MEANING   to change one’s opinions or behaviour repeatedly and abruptly     ORIGIN   In this phrase, to chop originally meant to barter, and to change meant to make an exchange with. In other words, this was an alliterative repetitive expression, […]

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claptrap

claptrap

  Thomas Cobham as Marmion (1827), by John Rogers, published by George Virtue, after Thomas Charles Wageman – photograph: National Portrait Gallery       MEANING   absurd or nonsensical talk or ideas     ORIGIN   The word dates back to the first half of the 18th century and originally meant a use of […]

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smoke and mirrors

smoke and mirrors

  Jimmy Breslin, born in 1930, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American political journalist and author.       MEANING   the obscuring or embellishing of the truth of a situation with misleading or irrelevant information     ORIGIN   This phrase refers to the illusion created by conjuring tricks. It was coined by the American […]

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clink

clink

  Winchester House (from a view by Hollar, 1660)         MEANING   prison     ORIGIN   The Clink was the name of a prison in Southwark, London. A Svrvay of London. Conteyning the Originall, Antiquity, Increase, Moderne estate, and description of that City, written in the yeare 1598, by Iohn Stow […]

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cloak-and-dagger

cloak-and-dagger

    According to folk etymology, the adjective cloak-and-dagger has its origin in fencing: the cloak, wrapped around one arm, was used as a defensive weapon. The illustration and quotation are from Old Sword-Play (1892) by Alfred Hutton: Rapier and cloak In this exercise the cloak takes the place, as a defensive weapon, of the […]

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new broom

new broom

  broom-besom – photograph: Etsy       A new broom is a person who, or thing which, effects fundamental or numerous alterations, especially a newly appointed person who vigorously sets about making changes in personnel, procedures, etc. The first known user of the term is Robert Sanderson (1587-1663), Bishop of Lincoln, in a sermon […]

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