Tag Archives: animals

at one fell swoop

    The phrase at (or in) one fell swoop means all in one go. Here, the noun swoop, which denotes the act of swooping down, refers to the sudden pouncing of a bird of prey (a kite for example) from a height upon its quarry (of Germanic origin, the verb swoop is cognate with sweep). The adjective fell (related to felon) means of terrible evil or ferocity. The whole expression is from The Tragedie […]

Continue Reading
The language of domination

The language of domination

   Sir Walter Scott (1829), replica by John Graham Gilbert image: National Portrait Gallery     The Anglo-Saxons were the Germanic inhabitants of England before the Conquest, i.e. the invasion and assumption of control by William of Normandy in 1066. Known as William the Conqueror, William I (circa 1027-87) defeated Harold II at the Battle of […]

Continue Reading
pregnant – enceinte

pregnant – enceinte

  manuscript page from Isidorus Hispalensis: Etymologiae (Codex Karolinus) Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel       The English adjective pregnant has several meanings: carrying a fetus or fetuses within the womb, full of meaning or significance, inventive or imaginative, prolific or fruitful. It is from the Latin adjective praegnans/praegnant-, with child, pregnant, variant of praegnas/praegnat-, probably […]

Continue Reading
to return to one’s muttons

to return to one’s muttons

  The court scene - woodcut from the edition of La Farce de Maistre Pathelin by Pierre Levet, circa 1489       MEANING   to return to the matter in hand     ORIGIN   This phrase is from French revenons à nos moutons (let us return to our sheep), which is said to have […]

Continue Reading

to smell a rat

    MEANING   to detect something suspicious     ORIGIN   The first known use of this phrase is in The Image of Ipocrysy, an anonymous poem written around 1540, denouncing “the cruell clergy”: (published in 1843) Suche be owr [= our] primates, Our bisshopps and prelates, Our parsons and curates, With other like […]

Continue Reading
pigs might fly

pigs might fly

  Alice (with flamingo) chats with the Duchess illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914)     “Thinking again?” the Duchess asked, with another dig of her sharp little chin. “I’ve a right to think,” said Alice sharply, for she was beginning to feel a little worried. “Just about as much right,” said the Duchess, “as pigs […]

Continue Reading
according to Hoyle

according to Hoyle

  autograph signature of Edmond Hoyle in a copy of A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (1743 edition)         MEANING   according to plan or the rules     ORIGIN   In Pirates, Autographs, and a Bankruptcy: ‘A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist’ by Edmond Hoyle, Gentleman (published […]

Continue Reading

pismirism

    MEANING   hoarding of money; miserliness     ORIGIN   This rare noun is first recorded in the column Table Talk of The Daily News (London) of Saturday 22nd December 1906: Our Post Office spoils us. It takes a great deal of trouble for the public that it need not take, and that other Post […]

Continue Reading

mare’s nest

    MEANINGS   – a discovery imagined to be important but proving worthless – a disordered situation     ORIGIN   This expression is first recorded in Galateo of Maister Iohn Della Casa, Archebishop of Beneuenta. Or rather, A treatise of the maners and behauiours, it behoueth a man to vse and eschewe, in his familiar […]

Continue Reading

bully

    MEANING   a person who hurts, persecutes or intimidates weaker people     ORIGIN   One noun bully was a term of endearment and familiarity originally applied to either sex. It is first recorded in A comedy concernynge thre lawes, of nature Moses, & Christ, corrupted by the sodomytes. Pharysees and Papystes (1548?), […]

Continue Reading
1...34567...17

Unblog.fr | Créer un blog | Annuaire | Signaler un abus