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peaceable kingdom

peaceable kingdom

  one of the versions of The Peaceable Kingdom (circa 1834), by Edward Hicks image: National Gallery of Art (Washington DC)       The expression peaceable kingdom, in the sense of a state of harmony among all creatures as prophesied in the Book of Isaiah, 11:1-9, first appeared in the King James Version (1611):   […]

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French pig idioms

French pig idioms

    A violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously. Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, […]

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to sweat like a pig

to sweat like a pig

  photograph: Fairhope Farm     The phrase to sweat like a pig means to sweat profusely. The earliest instance that I have found is from The Morning Post (London) of 10th November 1824; during a boxing match “between Ned Turner and Peace Inglis for one hundred pounds a-side”, one Shelton, who waited on Turner, […]

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nul points

nul points

  Seventies spectacle – Brotherhood of Man featured on Channel 4’s Top Ten – Eurovision There was once a time when it [= the Eurovision Song Contest], along with Miss World and the FA Cup Final, formed part of an annual must-see television triumvirate. The only people who did not watch it were social deviants […]

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How goes the enemy?

How goes the enemy?

  “Tell me, man, how goes the enemy?” cartoon published in the Sunday Pictorial (London) of 23rd August 1942     The colloquial phrase How goes the enemy? means What is the time?. Its origin was explained in the text where it is first recorded, published in the Brighton Gazette, and Lewes Observer (Sussex) of […]

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philtrum

philtrum

  photograph: Google+ Communities     The noun philtrum denotes the vertical groove between the base of the nose and the border of the upper lip. The literal and obsolete signification of this word, which appeared in the early 17th century, is love potion, from classical Latin philtrum, of same meaning. In post-classical Latin, philtrum […]

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Kilkenny cats

Kilkenny cats

    Kilkenny cats denotes two cats fabled to have fought until only their tails remained, hence combatants who fight until they annihilate each other, and to fight like Kilkenny cats means to engage in a mutually destructive struggle. (The name Kilkenny denotes both a county in south-eastern Ireland and its chief town.) The earliest mention of Kilkenny cats that I have found […]

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heart of oak

heart of oak

  A New Song, sung by Mr. Champness in Harlequin’s Invasion from The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure – March 1760     The phrase heart of oak denotes a person with a strong, courageous nature, especially a brave and loyal soldier or sailor, and a courageous or valorous spirit. Its literal meaning is […]

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to wash the milk off one’s liver

to wash the milk off one’s liver

    The Oxford English Dictionary (OED, 3rd edition – 2002) thus defines to wash the milk off one’s liver: to purge oneself of cowardice. Obsolete. To illustrate this definition, the OED provides one example only: the proverb “Wash thy milke off thy liuer, (say we)”, from A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611), by Randle Cotgrave. But the context of […]

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rift in the lute

rift in the lute

  L’astucieuse Viviane était étendue aux pieds de Merlin, by Gustave Doré (1832-1883) from Les Idylles du roi (Paris – 1868), translation of Idylls of the King by Alfred Tennyson     The phrase rift in the lute means sign of disharmony between persons, especially the first evidence of a quarrel that may become worse. […]

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