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pogue

    MEANING   a kiss     ORIGIN   This Irish English noun, which has also been spelt poge, poage and póg, is from Irish póg, meaning a kiss. In An Irish-English Dictionary (1864), Edward O’Reilly gave the following translations: – pog, substantive feminine, a kiss; Welsh, poc. – pogadh, substantive, kissing. – pogaim, […]

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alligator

alligator

  Bobby Charles – See You Later, Alligator (1955) photograph: Rebound Records     MEANING   a large semiaquatic reptile similar to a crocodile but with a broader and shorter head, native to the Americas and China     ORIGIN   This noun is from Spanish el lagarto, el meaning the and lagarto lizard, from […]

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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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Indian summer – l’été sauvage

Indian summer – l’été sauvage

  St. John de Crèvecœur, after the portrait by Vallière, 1786         MEANING   a period of unusually calm dry warm weather, often accompanied by a hazy atmosphere, occurring in late autumn in the northern United States and Canada hence a similar period of unseasonably warm autumnal weather elsewhere     ORIGIN […]

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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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