St. John de Crèvecœur, after the portrait by Vallière, 1786 MEANING a period of unusually calm dry warm weather, often accompanied by a hazy ...
original illustration for Of the Swine in The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (1658), by Edward Topsell The French masculine noun sanglier denotes a full-grown wild boar. It literally means a boar living on its own, separated from the herd, since, via Old and Middle French forms such as sengler and […]
In The Tragedie of Macbeth (around 1603), by the English poet and playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Gray-Malkin is the name of a fiend in the shape of a grey she-cat, the cat being the form most generally assumed by the familiar spirits of witches according to a common superstition: (Folio 1, […]
Monument to Thomas Hood (designed by M. Noble) erected in Kensal Green Cemetery by Public Subscription illustration from Memorials of Thomas Hood (1860) A blend of magpie and piety, the word magpiety was originally invented by the English poet and humorist Thomas Hood (1799-1845) to denote talkativeness, garrulity, especially on religious or moral topics and affected piety. This author first […]
illustration from The British Wolf-Hunters. A Tale of England in the Olden Time (1859), by Thomas Miller The Latin noun lupus/-pi meant wolf. It is kindred with ancient Greek λύκος (= lukos) – cf. lycanthrope, which originally designated a person who believes that he or she is a wolf, and which, via […]
One of the earliest instances of posh is from a cartoon in Punch, or The London Charivari of 25th September 1918. An RAF officer is talking to his mother: “Oh, yes, Mater, we had a posh time of it down there.” “Whatever do you mean by ‘posh,’ Gerald?” “Don’t you know? It’s slang for ‘swish’*!” [* swish: impressively smart and fashionable] […]
image: nageur-sauveteur MEANINGS The noun starboard denotes the side of a ship or aircraft that is on the right when one is facing forward, while port denotes the opposing side. ORIGINS From the Germanic bases of the nouns steer and board, starboard, which appeared in Old English as steorbord, […]
Aunt Sally – from The Modern Playmate: A book of games, sports, and diversions for boys of all ages (new revised edition – 1875?), by John George Wood (1827-89) The Oxford English Dictionary (first edition – 1885) thus defined Aunt Sally: a game much in vogue at fairs and races, in which the figure of a woman’s head […]