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midinette

midinette

    Phonetically and semantically similar to milliner, the French word midinette was defined as “a milliner’s female assistant, especially in Paris” in the 1933 Supplement to the New English Dictionary (as the Oxford English Dictionary was known). However, while milliner literally means a Milanese, a native or inhabitant of Milan, midinette is a portmanteau word, composed of midi, midday, and dînette, light dinner, […]

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clock – cloak

clock – cloak

  cloak: twin roses designs     The nouns clock and cloak are doublets, or etymological twins: they are of the same derivation but have different forms and meanings. Despite the notion of ‘two’ implied by doublet, the term is also applied to sets of more than two words. In this case, cloche, a borrowing from French, must be added to clock and cloak.   […]

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Wales – Cymru

Wales – Cymru

                      Briton settlements in the 6th century – settlements of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in Britain, circa 600     In the following, Briton will refer to the Celtic Brittonic-speaking peoples who inhabited Britain south of the Firth of Forth, and who, following the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in […]

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The language of domination

The language of domination

   Sir Walter Scott (1829), replica by John Graham Gilbert image: National Portrait Gallery     The Anglo-Saxons were the Germanic inhabitants of England before the Conquest, i.e. the invasion and assumption of control by William of Normandy in 1066. Known as William the Conqueror, William I (circa 1027-87) defeated Harold II at the Battle of […]

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pregnant – enceinte

pregnant – enceinte

  manuscript page from Isidorus Hispalensis: Etymologiae (Codex Karolinus) Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel       The English adjective pregnant has several meanings: carrying a fetus or fetuses within the womb, full of meaning or significance, inventive or imaginative, prolific or fruitful. It is from the Latin adjective praegnans/praegnant-, with child, pregnant, variant of praegnas/praegnat-, probably […]

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to return to one’s muttons

to return to one’s muttons

  The court scene - woodcut from the edition of La Farce de Maistre Pathelin by Pierre Levet, circa 1489       MEANING   to return to the matter in hand     ORIGIN   This phrase is from French revenons à nos moutons (let us return to our sheep), which is said to have […]

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strawberry preacher

    In A notable Sermō of yᵉ reuerende father Maister Hughe Latemer, whiche he preached in yᵉ Shrouds at paules churche in Londō, on the .xviii. daye of January. 1548., Hugh Latimer (circa 1485-1555), English Protestant prelate and martyr, thus criticised the members of the clergy who did not reside in the places required […]

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small beer

small beer

        MEANING   person(s) or matter(s) of little or no importance     ORIGIN   Since the early 14th century, the adjective small has been used to mean of low alcoholic strength. For example, The Forme of Cury¹, a roll of English cookery, compiled around 1390 by the master cooks of Richard […]

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pigs might fly

pigs might fly

  Alice (with flamingo) chats with the Duchess illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914)     “Thinking again?” the Duchess asked, with another dig of her sharp little chin. “I’ve a right to think,” said Alice sharply, for she was beginning to feel a little worried. “Just about as much right,” said the Duchess, “as pigs […]

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one’s best bib and tucker

    MEANING   one’s smartest clothes     ORIGIN   This phrase was originally used only of women’s clothes. A bib was a piece of cloth, usually the upper part of an apron, worn between throat and waist. A tucker was a piece of lace or linen worn in or around the top of […]

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