Tag Archives: animals
myrmidon

myrmidon

  statue of Ovid in Constanţa (ancient Tomis, the city where he was exiled), Romania – 1887, by the Italian sculptor Ettore Ferrari – photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Kurt Wichmann     The noun myrmidon denotes a follower or subordinate of a powerful person, typically one who is unscrupulous or carries out orders unquestioningly. This word first appeared in the […]

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rhesus

rhesus

  Le Rhesus (Simia Rhesus) – illustration by Jean-Baptiste Audebert for his treatise, Histoire naturelle des singes et des makis (1799) – image: Bibliothèque nationale de France / gallica.bnf.fr     This word is from French rhésus, formerly rhesus, and from its etymon, the scientific Latin (Simia) Rhesus. In Histoire naturelle des singes et des makis (Natural History of the Monkeys and Lemurs – 1799), the […]

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window

window

  oeil-de-boeuf (literally eye-of-steer) window photograph: Lynne Furrer/Shutterstock.com       The noun window is from Middle English windoȝe, a borrowing from Old Norse vindauga, literally wind’s eye, from vindr, wind, and auga, eye. The Scandinavian word replaced and finally superseded Old English éagþyrel, i.e. eyethirl, composed of the nouns eye and thirl. The noun […]

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Rotten Row

Rotten Row

  the Rotten-row in Glasgow, circa 1570 image: The Glasgow Story     The street name Rotten Row occurs in many different towns. For example, The Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh) of 10th December 1728 published the following advertisement: There is just come to Leith, a Parcel of fine Figs both in Casks and Frails [= baskets], which will be sold there at […]

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foie gras

foie gras

  duck being force-fed corn in order to fatten its liver for foie gras production photograph: GAIA – Voice of the Voiceless     The French term foie gras, from foie, liver, and gras, fat, fatty, denotes the liver of a specially fattened goose or duck prepared as food. Short for pâté de foie gras, […]

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beyond the pale

beyond the pale

    MEANING   outside the limits of social convention     ORIGIN   The primary meanings of the noun pale are a wooden stake or post used with others to form a fence and a wooden fence made of stakes driven into the ground. This word appeared in the late 14th century and is […]

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panjandrum

panjandrum

  cover of The Great Panjandrum Himself (1885), a picture book based on the text attributed to Samuel Foote, by the English artist and illustrator Randolph Caldecott (1846-86) – photograph: Aleph-Bet Books     MEANING   a pompous self-important official or person of rank     ORIGIN   The word is supposed to have been […]

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of mice and men

of mice and men

  Of Mice and Men (1937), by John Steinbeck – first edition cover designed by George Salter     The words man and mouse have been used in alliterative association in: – neither man nor mouse, to mean not a living creature, great or small, – mouse and man, or mice and men, to mean every living thing. The first known user of neither man nor […]

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to grin like a Cheshire cat

to grin like a Cheshire cat

  Alice speaks to Cheshire Cat – illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914) for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)     The Cheshire cat is now largely identified with the character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), by the English writer Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – 1832-98): “Please would you tell me,” said Alice, a […]

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midinette

midinette

    Phonetically and semantically similar to milliner, the French word midinette was defined as “a milliner’s female assistant, especially in Paris” in the 1933 Supplement to the New English Dictionary (as the Oxford English Dictionary was known). However, while milliner literally means a Milanese, a native or inhabitant of Milan, midinette is a portmanteau word, composed of midi, midday, and dînette, light dinner, […]

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