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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Ophiuchus & precession (astronomy vs astrology)

Ophiuchus & precession (astronomy vs astrology)

  precessional movement of the earth The earth rotates (white arrows) once a day about its axis of rotation (red); this axis itself rotates slowly (white circle), completing a rotation in approximately 26,000 years. image: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)       In astrology, the zodiac is a belt of the heavens within […]

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nyctograph, typhlograph & noctograph

nyctograph, typhlograph & noctograph

  advertisement for ‘Wedgwood’s highly improved noctograph’ – circa 1842 The ‘noctograph’, originally patented in 1806 as a ‘Stylographic Writer’, was designed to help blind people write. The device used ‘carbonated paper’, made by soaking paper with printers’ ink. Once dried, the paper was fitted in the writing frame between two sheets of plain paper […]

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nuppence & tuppence

nuppence & tuppence

  a twopence-coloured print: Mr T. P. Cook in six of his principal characters     The noun nuppence means no money, nothing. It is composed of the n- of no and the -uppence of tuppence, variant of twopence. The first known user – and perhaps coiner – of this word is the Scottish historian, translator, journalist, lecturer, biographer, anthropologist, poet, and […]

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to get a rise out of someone

to get a rise out of someone

  The Secrets of Angling by John Dennys title page of the first edition (1613)     To get, or take, a rise out of someone means to provoke an angry or irritated response from someone, especially by teasing.   Here, a rise is a joke, a trick played on someone. It is a figurative […]

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captcha

captcha

      A captcha or CAPTCHA is any of various authentication systems devised to enable a computer to distinguish human from computer input, typically in order to thwart spam or to prevent automated misuse of a web site. The word also denotes a manifestation of such a system, especially a string of distorted letters […]

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‘quiz’

‘quiz’

  Frances Burney (circa 1784-85) by Edward Francisco Burney National Portrait Gallery       MEANING   The noun quiz has the general sense of a set of questions used to test knowledge or to promote learning. In American English, a quiz is a short oral or written examination given by a teacher. In British […]

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j’accuse

j’accuse

  the newspaper L’Aurore – 13 January 1898     MEANING   The English noun j’accuse denotes an accusation, especially one made publicly in response to a perceived injustice, and more generally a public denunciation.     ORIGIN   It is from French J’Accuse…!, I Accuse…!, the title of an open letter from Émile Zola […]

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alphin

alphin

  photograph: the chess piece       In the early game of chess, an alphin was each of four pieces able to move two squares diagonally, jumping over the middle square. It was superseded by the bishop at the end of the 15th century. The word is from post-classical Latin alphinus, Anglo-Norman aufyn, Anglo-Norman […]

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February

February

      February is from classical Latin Februārius, a noun use of the adjective in mēnsis Februārius (mēnsis = month). This adjective is from the plural noun februa (singular februum), meaning means of purification, expiatory offerings. The Roman festival of purification and expiation was held on the 15th of this month. The origin of […]

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The months in Old English

The months in Old English

  Calling in the gleaners (Le Rappel des glaneuses – 1859) by Jules Breton (1827-1906) – Musée d’Orsay, Paris     The months were not as precisely defined as they are today. They were in particular periods of pre-Christian festivals such as Yule and of agricultural activities such as the harvest, governed by the rhythm […]

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