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 ...

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 :   ...

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 to one another. For example, it would be totally unthinkable in France that ...

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

domino

domino

  The Ridotto in Venice – 1750s by the Venetian painter Pietro Longhi (circa 1701-85)     A domino is a kind of loose cloak, apparently of Venetian origin, chiefly worn at masquerades, with a small mask covering the upper part of the face, by persons not personating a character. The word, first recorded in […]

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easel – chevalet

easel – chevalet

  La Condition humaine – 1933 – René Magritte     An easel is a wooden frame to support a picture while the painter is at work upon it; it is also a similar frame used to support a blackboard. The word is first recorded in 1634 in The Mysteryes of Nature and Art, by […]

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scruple

scruple

  a two-scruple (℈ij) apothecary weight coin photograph: Numista     The word scruple, usually scruples, denotes a feeling of doubt or hesitation with regard to the morality or propriety of a course of action.   Through French scrupule, this word is from Latin scrupulus, literally small rough or sharp stone. Probably because such stones used […]

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nickel, cobalt, blende, tungsten & copper

nickel, cobalt, blende, tungsten & copper

      Behind the façade of rationality presented by the names of metals as they appear today in the periodic table of elements lurks a background of folk belief.   The noun nickel was borrowed in the late 18th century from Swedish nickel, a shortening of German Kupfernickel. This German word is composed of […]

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germane

germane

  Strabo as depicted in a 16th-century engraving      The adjective germane means relevant to a subject under consideration: I wonder whether she ever sang lullabies to me in my cradle. If so, it must have scared me cross-eyed, giving me the illusion that the boiler had exploded. However, that is not germane to […]

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to eat humble pie

to eat humble pie

  Samuel Pepys (1666) by John Hayls Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) – English diarist and naval administrator. He is particularly remembered for his Diary (1660-9), which describes events such as the Great Plague and the Fire of London.     The phrase to eat humble pie means to make a humble apology and accept humiliation.   […]

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good wine needs no bush

good wine needs no bush

  Bacchino malato (Young sick Bacchus) – circa 1593 – self-portrait by Caravaggio     The proverb good wine needs no bush means something that is good does not need to be advertised.   The bush in this sense of advertisement is the branch or bunch of ivy that used to be hung up as a […]

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Argus-eyed

Argus-eyed

  Fábula de Mercurio y Argos (1659) by Diego Velázquez     To be Argus-eyed is to be vigilant.   Argus, the Latinised form of Greek Argos, was thus defined in A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (1849), edited by William Smith: Argus Surnamed Panoptes. He derived his surname, Panoptes, the all-seeing, […]

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Buggins’ turn

Buggins’ turn

  John Arbuthnot Fisher (1841-1920)     Buggins’ turn, or Buggins’s turn, is the principle of assigning an appointment to persons in rotation rather than according to merit.   The earliest recorded use of this expression is in a letter written on 13th January 1901 by Lord Fisher, Admiral of the Fleet: Favouritism was the […]

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Mediterranean

Mediterranean

      The Mediterranean (Sea) is the almost landlocked sea separating southern Europe from Africa, connected with the Atlantic Ocean by the Strait of Gibraltar, with the Black Sea by the Bosporus, and (since 1869) with the Red Sea by the Suez Canal.   The adjective and noun Mediterranean is from the classical Latin […]

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