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marrowsky

    The noun marrowsky, which has also been spelt Marouski, Marowsky, morowski and mowrowsky, denotes a variety of slang, or a slip in speaking, characterised by the transposition of the initial letters or syllables of two words. The more usual term is spoonerism. The word is first recorded in the verbal form Marrowskying in the critical […]

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spoonerism

spoonerism

  photograph of William Archibald Spooner in The Leeds Mercury (Yorkshire) of Monday 1st September 1930   There is a rather awkward moment in “An Italian Straw Hat” when Laurence Payne, as a young bridegroom, looking desperately into the auditorium of the Old Vic, cries: “The thick plottens!” Hearing this elementary Spoonerism, graver members of the audience at the […]

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nul points

nul points

  Seventies spectacle – Brotherhood of Man featured on Channel 4’s Top Ten – Eurovision There was once a time when it [= the Eurovision Song Contest], along with Miss World and the FA Cup Final, formed part of an annual must-see television triumvirate. The only people who did not watch it were social deviants […]

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who’s ‘she’—the cat’s mother?

who’s ‘she’—the cat’s mother?

  crossword in The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury of 23rd January 1950 30 across: The cat’s mother? (3).       The phrase who’s ‘she’—the cat’s mother? and variants are said to a person, especially a child, who uses the feminine third person singular pronoun impolitely or with inadequate reference. The earliest use of […]

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starboard – port

starboard – port

  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, […]

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Mayday

Mayday

  Frederick Stanley Mockford’s gravestone at Selmeston, East Sussex, England – photograph: Geoffrey Gillon/Find A Grave     The word Mayday, which dates from 1923, is used as an international radio distress signal, especially by ships and aircraft. It was supposedly coined by Frederick Stanley Mockford (1897-1962), a senior radio officer at London’s Croydon Airport, […]

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reseda

reseda

  Reseda lutea L. photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Udo Schmidt       MEANING   any plant of the European genus Reseda, including mignonette and dyer’s rocket, which has small spikes of greenish, yellowish or whitish flowers     ORIGIN   Through translations of Naturalis Historia (Natural History – 77), a vast encyclopaedia of the natural and human worlds by the […]

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Richard Snary

Richard Snary

  John Taylor (1578-1653), by Edward Harding image: National Portrait Gallery       The term Richard Snary is an alteration, with humorous substitution of Richard for the pet-form Dick, of Dick Snary, itself a humorous remodelling of dictionary. These terms are first recorded in Apollo shrouing composed for the schollars of the free-schoole of […]

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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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