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‘Noel’

      MEANINGS   – Noel, or Noël: Christmas, especially on Christmas cards and as a refrain in carols – noel, or noël: a Christmas carol     ORIGIN   This noun is from Anglo-Norman and Middle French forms such as Noël, Noel (modern French Noël), variants of forms such as Naël, Nael, first attested […]

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promenade concert

promenade concert

  the Proms (2015) – photograph: BBC       A promenade concert is a concert at which some of the audience stand rather than sit.   In French, promenade is attested in 1599 in the sense of a place for promenading, and in 1671 in that of a leisurely walk. With addition of the […]

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Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights

  The remote, abandoned farm of Top Withens (or Top Withins) is often thought of as the inspiration for the Wuthering Heights farmhouse. — Source and photograph: The Reader’s Guide to Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”       The obsolete Scottish and dialectal English verb to whither is from an assumed Old Norse verb hviðra, […]

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Scouse

Scouse

  Albert Dock, Liverpool     MEANING   A Scouse, or Scouser, is a person from Liverpool, Lancashire, and Scouse is the dialect or accent of people from Liverpool. Liverpool is a city and seaport in North-West England, situated at the east side of the mouth of the River Mersey. Liverpool developed as a port […]

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‘geek’

‘geek’

  Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything (2014) a British film directed by James Marsh and based on Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, by Jane Wilde Hawking     The noun geek was originally a northern-English dialectal noun meaning a fool, a simpleton, one who is befooled or derided, […]

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grotty

grotty

  Lime Street in the 1890s     MEANING   This informal British adjective is a general term of disapproval meaning unpleasant, dirty, ugly, etc.   ORIGIN   A slang abbreviation of grotesque, grotty seems to have originated in Liverpool, Lancashire. The word is credited to John Burke, who wrote the novelisation of A Hard […]

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rosemary

rosemary

  Rosmarinus officinalis - Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen (1887), published by Franz Eugen Köhler     Rosemary is an evergreen aromatic shrub of the mint family, native to southern Europe. The narrow leaves are used as a culinary herb, in perfumery, and as an emblem of remembrance. (Scientific name: Rosmarinus officinalis, family Labiatae)   The word is apparently a folk-etymological […]

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slapstick

slapstick

    A slapstick consists of two flat pieces of wood joined together at one end, used to produce a loud slapping noise.   Although the device is much older, the word slapstick itself, originally American English, only dates from the late 19th century. The double-slatted paddle was specially used in pantomime and ‘low’ comedy to […]

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domino

domino

  The Ridotto in Venice – 1750s by the Venetian painter Pietro Longhi (circa 1701-85)     A domino is a kind of loose cloak, apparently of Venetian origin, chiefly worn at masquerades, with a small mask covering the upper part of the face, by persons not personating a character. The word, first recorded in […]

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to season – assaisonner

to season – assaisonner

  Michelle Shocked (born Karen Michelle Johnston)     The noun season is from Old French seson (Modern French saison), which is generally said to be from Latin satio(n-), act of sowing, later time of sowing, from the root of serere, to sow.   However, season is estación in Spanish, estació in Catalan, estação in […]

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