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budget

budget

  bulga – from Dictionnaire illustré latin-français (1934), by Félix Gaffiot       MEANING   The following definition of budget is from the New English Dictionary (i.e. Oxford English Dictionary – 1888 edition): A statement of the probable revenue and expenditure for the ensuing year, with financial proposals founded thereon, annually submitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on behalf of the Ministry, […]

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ignoramus

ignoramus

      Title page of George Ruggle‘s Ignoramus (1630 edition)         An ignoramus (plural ignoramuses) is an ignorant or stupid person.       It was originally a legal formula of quite different significance.   It is a Latin word, literally meaning we do not know, from the verb ignorare (the origin […]

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hocus-pocus

hocus-pocus

  The decapitation in ‘Hocus Pocus Junior’   The term hocus-pocus seems to have appeared in English in the early 17th century, as the assumed name of a particular conjuror, derived from the sham Latin formula employed by him. A later writer, Thomas Ady, described his act: I will speak of one man … that […]

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‘guy’

‘guy’

  The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators, by Heinrich Ulrich early 17th century - National Portrait Gallery Guy (“Guido”) Fawkes is third from the right        The proper name Guy is derived, via French, from the Old German Wido, either from wit, meaning wide, or from witu, wood. Wido has become Guy in French because in words of Germanic origin, when initial, the labio-velar approximant /w/ has regularly become the […]

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bonfire

bonfire

  a Fifth of November bonfire in Hastings – photograph: VisitEngland       In A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), the English lexicographer Samuel Johnson (1709-84) thus defined bonfire: [from bon, good, French, and fire.] A fire made for some publick cause of triumph or exultation. In support of this etymology, bonfire in several languages is, literally, fire of joy. For example: – […]

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to pay through the nose: folk etymology

  I have explained in another article the probable origin of to pay through the nose. In an article titled Horse-Marines, published in Notes and Queries (Series 9/II, 1898, p. 457), a certain Richard Edgcumbe gave the following folk etymology:   Then, again, “Paying through the nose”. This was originally a common expression on board ship: “Pay out the cable”, […]

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left & right – la gauche & la droite

left & right – la gauche & la droite

  ‘You’d better go and shift that ladder to the right window.’ ‘You mean the left window.’ ‘Well, let’s call it the correct window.’ I braced myself to break the bad news. ‘Ah,’ I said, ‘but what you’re overlooking – possibly because I forgot to tell you – is that a snag has arisen which […]

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jingoism & chauvinism

jingoism & chauvinism

  Retour de Napoléon dans l’île de Lobau après la bataille d’Essling Charles Meynier     The English word jingo and the French word chauvin both apply to that ultra-patriotic section of the population which, in war-time, attends to the shouting.     Jingo first appeared in conjurors’ jargon of the 17th century. It was used in the oath […]

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The veracious story of a worthy knight, called Sir Loin of Beef

The veracious story of a worthy knight, called Sir Loin of Beef

  At Astley Hall (Lancashire), you can still see this chair… … with the following explanation: Sirloin Chair – King James I reputedly knighted a loin of beef upon this chair at Hoghton Tower, Lancashire, in 1617. Se non è vero, è ben trovato. (Even if it is not true, it makes a good story.)     The […]

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