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grotesque

grotesque

  Crotésca, antique, fretted or carved worke. Grótta, a grot, a cave, a den, a caverne or hole underground. Grottésca, anticke or landskip [= landscape] worke of Painters. John Florio – Queen Anna’s New World of Words, Or Dictionarie of the Italian and English tongues (1611)     During the Italian Renaissance, the remaining buildings […]

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warts and all

warts and all

  Peter Lely – Portrait of Oliver Cromwell       In 1988, during the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, Vice-President George H. W. Bush reached into history for a ringing battle cry: As Abraham Lincoln said, here I stand—‘warts and all.’   But Bush was not quoting Abraham Lincoln. Here I stand is attributed to […]

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back to the drawing board

back to the drawing board

  Peter Arno (Curtis Arnoux Peters, Jr – 1904-68)     MEANING   The phrase back to the drawing board is used to indicate that an idea, scheme, or proposal has been unsuccessful and that a new one must be devised.     ORIGIN   It was coined by the American cartoonist Peter Arno in […]

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to play fast and loose – part 2

to play fast and loose – part 2

  The Conjurer, 1475-1480, by Hieronymus Bosch or his workshop The conjurer is showing a pearl, which casts its spell over the credulous spectator, a person of rank, who leans in and stares at it while the conjurer’s assistant relieves him of his purse.     The phrase to play fast and loose originally referred […]

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dandelion – pissenlit

dandelion – pissenlit

  the 1905 edition of Le Petit Larousse illustré, a French-language encyclopaedic dictionary published by the Éditions Larousse In 1890, Eugène Grasset (1845-1917) designed the image of la Semeuse (the Sower) blowing dandelion seeds, which accompanies the motto of the Éditions Larousse, Je sème à tout vent (I sow to the four winds).     The word dandelion is from French dent de lion, in Medieval […]

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Amazon

Amazon

          The Amazon is a river in South America, flowing over 6,683 km (4,150 miles) through Peru, Colombia, and Brazil into the Atlantic Ocean. It drains two fifths of the continent and, in terms of water flow, it is the largest river in the world.   The river bore various names […]

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The horns on Moses’ head

The horns on Moses’ head

    Michelangelo (1475-1564), following the earlier artists, made a statue of Moses with horns. (San Pietro in Vincoli – Rome)       Moses is conventionally depicted with horns.   This is the result of a blunder in translation.   In Exodus, 34:29, where we are told that when Moses came down from Mount […]

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Green, an unsettling colour

Green, an unsettling colour

      Verdigris is a bright bluish-green encrustation or patina formed on copper or brass by atmospheric oxidation, consisting of basic copper carbonate. The word verdigris is from Old French verte-gres, earlier vert de Grece, meaning green of Greece.     ETYMOLOGIES   The word green is etymologically related to the words grass and grow. And […]

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