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to send to Coventry

    MEANING   to ostracise or ignore     ORIGIN   Coventry is a city in the west Midlands of England, historically in Warwickshire. In Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1870 edition), Ebenezer Cobham Brewer (1810-97) gave the following origin of the phrase: This is a military term, according to Messrs. Chambers (“Cyclopædia”): The […]

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blanket

    The noun blanket is from Old Northern French and Anglo-Norman forms such as blankete and blanket, composed of blanc, white, and the diminutive suffix -ette, and meaning white woollen material, blanket cloth, and blanket. (The Modern French word for blanket is couverture, meaning literally covering, from the verb couvrir, to cover. The term […]

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‘Wasp’

    MEANING   (often used with mild derision): a person who belongs to, or is thought of, as being part of a white, upper middle-class, northern European, Protestant group that dominates economic, political and cultural activity in the USA       ORIGIN   This acronym from white Anglo-Saxon Protestant is first recorded in […]

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to be part and parcel of

    MEANING   to be an essential feature or element of     ORIGIN   Derived from Anglo-Norman forms such as parcele and parcell and Old and Middle French parcelle, parcel has as primary meaning small part of a whole. This noun is from an unattested post-classical Latin particella, part, portion, alteration of classical Latin particula, […]

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Froggy

  And I saw three vncleane spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, & out of the mouth of the beast, & out of the mouth of the false prophet. Book of Revelation, 16:13 (King James Version - 1611)     MEANING   (informal and derogatory): a French person     ORIGIN […]

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Brexit

Brexit

    MEANING   the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union     ORIGIN   A blend of British, or Britain, and exit, this term dates back to 2012. The form Brixit appeared in Bagehot’s notebook on British politics, in The Economist of 21st June: A Brixit looms MY PRINT column this […]

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doryphore

doryphore

  “Death to the Doryphores” is slogan of schoolchildren off for potato-bug catching. In France “doryphores” is nickname for food-grabbing Germans, who love potatoes. from Vichy vs. France, by Richard de Rochemont – magazine Life, 1st September 1941       The French noun doryphore denotes the Colorado beetle, a yellow-and-black beetle native to America, […]

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comrade

comrade

        In Spanish, from the noun cámara (from Latin camera), meaning a chamber, a room, was derived the collective feminine noun camarada, a military term attested in the mid-16th century in the sense of chambered or cabined (company). (The French feminine noun chambrée, from chambre, room, has the same meaning.) In Spanish, […]

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Morton’s fork

    MEANING   a practical dilemma, especially one in which both choices are equally undesirable     ORIGIN   John Morton (circa 1420-1500), Archbishop of Canterbury, cardinal and Lord Chancellor to King Henry VII, is traditionally believed to have developed a method of levying forced loans by arguing that those who were obviously rich […]

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a stiff upper lip

a stiff upper lip

  first edition cover of Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963), by the English author P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) – image: Goldsboro Books     MEANING   a quality of uncomplaining stoicism     ORIGIN   The word lip occurs in phrases referring to certain actions regarded as indicative of particular states of feeling. For example, […]

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