Indian summer – l’été sauvage

Indian summer – l’été sauvage

  Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur (1735-1813) image: Encyclopædia Britannica     MEANING   a period of unusually calm dry warm weather, often accompanied by a hazy atmosphere, occurring in late ...

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 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 ...

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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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doryphore

doryphore

  “Death to the Doryphores” is slogan of schoolchildren off for potato-bug catching. In France “doryphores” is nickname for food-grabbing Germans, who love potatoes. from Vichy vs. France, by Richard de Rochemont – magazine Life, 1st September 1941       The French noun doryphore denotes the Colorado beetle, a yellow-and-black beetle native to America, […]

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to rain cats and dogs (2)

    According to B. A. Phythian in A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), the phrase to rain cats and dogs, or at least the metaphor, was in use for a long period before it was first recorded, and was originally referring to a disaster. He explains that a clue as to the origin of this phrase is to be found in […]

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to rain cats and dogs (1)

to rain cats and dogs (1)

    MEANING   to rain very hard     ORIGIN   Although B. A. Phythian made an interesting hypothesis as to the origin of this phrase in A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), to rain cats and dogs is probably based on a cat-and-dog fight as a metaphor for a storm or […]

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to unfriend

to unfriend

  photograph: Metro     The verb to unfriend was coined by the Church of England clergyman Thomas Fuller (1608-61) in The Appeal of Injured Innocence (1659). Writing to Peter Heylin (1599-1662), a churchman who had criticised The Church History of Britain from the birth of Jesus Christ until the year 1648, published in 1655, […]

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urbi et orbi

urbi et orbi

  Pope Francis delivering the traditional Urbi et Orbi Easter message on 1st April 2013 photograph: The Times     Qualifying a solemn papal blessing, proclamation, etc., the post-classical Latin adverb urbi et orbi means to the city (of Rome) and to the world. It is from classical Latin urbī, dative of urbs, city, and […]

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rus in urbe

rus in urbe

  Duck Island Cottage in St James’s Park, London photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Kunstlerbob       MEANING   an illusion of the countryside within a city     ORIGIN   This Latin expression, which translates as the country in the city, is from an epigram to Sparsus, by the Roman writer Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis – […]

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psychopomp

psychopomp

  Charon and Psyche (circa 1883), by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1829-1908)       MEANING   the spiritual guide of a living person’s soul     ORIGIN   The noun psychopomp, also psychopompos, is from ancient Greek ψυχοπομπός (= psukhopompos), meaning conductor, or guide, of souls. This Greek noun is from ψυχή (= pshukhe), soul, […]

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sæva indignatio

sæva indignatio

    Latin sæva indignatio, meaning savage indignation, expresses a feeling of contemptuous rage at human folly. For instance, in No splashing about in Diana’s multimillion-pound paddling pool, published in The Spectator of 31st July 2004, Paul Johnson wrote: I have often complained about the shortage of fountains in London. [...] Hence when I heard that vast […]

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panther

panther

  Bija, a two-year-old female black leopard – Picture: Barry Bland/Barcroft Media       MEANING   a leopard, especially a black one     ORIGIN   Via Latin panthera and Anglo-Norman and Old French forms derived from Latin such as panthere and pantere (Modern French panthère), the English noun panther is from ancient Greek […]

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queen’s cushion

queen’s cushion

      The expression was thus defined in Supplement to the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (1825), edited by the Scottish antiquary and philologist John Jamieson (1759-1838): Queen’s, also King’s, cushion, a mode of carriage, whether in sport, or from necessity. Two persons, each of whom grasps his right wrist with his left […]

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