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(with) tongue in cheek

  The phrase (with) tongue in cheek means in an ironic, or insincere, way. The Scottish author Tobias Smollett (1721-71) used to thrust one’s tongue in one’s cheek to denote a sign of contempt in his picaresque novel The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748); the hero has just captured and handed over a highwayman and returns to the coach in which he is travelling: When I had […]

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cut and dried

cut and dried

  It is a circumstance rather remarkable, that the answer to Sir George Rodney’s summons of surrender, given by the respective Dutch Governours of the Islands of St. Eustatius and St. Martin’s, should be couched exactly in the same form of words without the smallest variation; from this we are either to suppose, that the […]

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the cup that cheers

the cup that cheers

    The phrase the cup that cheers but not inebriates and its variants refer to tea as a drink which invigorates a person without causing drunkenness. It is from The Winter Evening, the fourth book of The Task. A Poem, in six Books (1785), by the English poet and letter-writer William Cowper (1731-1800): Now […]

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curate’s egg

curate’s egg

    The phrase curate’s egg means something that has both good and bad characteristics or parts. It is an allusion to True Humility, a cartoon by George du Maurier*, published in Punch, or the London Charivari of 9th November 1895. This cartoon depicts a meek curate who, having been served a stale egg while […]

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poulet

poulet

  Le billet doux ou la lettre d’amour (circa 1775), by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) source: Wikimedia Commons/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York       MEANING   a love letter     ORIGIN   It is a borrowing from the French noun poulet, literally chicken and chicken meat, used figuratively in the sense of […]

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to read the riot act

    The phrase to read the riot act, or Riot Act, means to strongly reprimand, especially with a view to putting a stop to unacceptable conduct. The Riot Act was an Act of Parliament passed by the British government in 1714 (and not in 1715 as indicated in the Oxford English Dictionary – 3rd […]

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stirrup cup – one for the road

stirrup cup – one for the road

    Huntsmen still use stirrup cup to designate an alcoholic drink offered to riders either as they are about to depart or when they return. Mr. Barry Puilan, Master of the East Antrim Hounds, hands a stirrup cup to huntsman Jack Taylor during the meet at Trench Hill, Ballyeaston, yesterday. from The Northern Whig and Belfast Post (Ireland) […]

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gossip

    MEANINGS   – a person who habitually talks about others, especially maliciously – a conversation involving malicious chatter or rumours about other people – casual and idle chat – light easy communication     ORIGIN   This word is from the Old English noun godsibb, composed of god and the adjective sib(b), meaning […]

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Joe Bloggs

Joe Bloggs

  Steve Cooper, playing Joe Bloggs in Monopoleyes, a play written by Will Travis, directed by Susan Mcardle and Paul Brannigan, and produced by Stolen Thread Productions Ltd, was interviewed on 25th October 2016: “You play Joe Bloggs – could you tell us a bit about your character and what your thoughts are on it?” […]

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blarney

blarney

    As a noun, blarney means amusing and harmless nonsense and talk which aims to charm, flatter or persuade; as a verb, it means to influence or persuade (someone) using charm and pleasant flattery. This word is from Blarney, the name of a village near Cork in Ireland; in the castle there, is an […]

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