Tag Archives: animals
caprice

caprice

  Audrey (1888), by Philip Richard Morris (The weekly newspaper Graphic commissioned twenty-one studies of Shakespeare’s heroines, which were exhibited in London in 1888.)       MEANING   a sudden and unaccountable change of mood or behaviour     ORIGIN   Via French, the English word caprice is from Italian capriccio, which, composed of […]

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mari complaisant – wittol

mari complaisant – wittol

  Cuckoos are famed for laying their eggs in host species’ nests, leaving unwitting “foster” birds to raise their chicks. Photograph from Cuckoos are no match for local reed warblers (BBC).       The French expression un mari complaisant, which literally means an accommodating husband, denotes a husband tolerant of his wife’s adultery. This sense […]

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cobra

cobra

  Indian cobra – photograph: Kamalnv/Wikimedia Commons The cobras constitute the genus Naja, or Naia. This is a modern Latin name, ultimately from Sanskrit nāga, snake. In Indian mythology, a Naga is a member of a race of semi-divine creatures, often part-snake, associated with rivers, rain, etc.       The noun cobra is short […]

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earth horn

earth horn

  The Battle of the Standard. Northallerton, by Sir John Gilbert (1817-97) watercolour, 1879-80, engraved by Madame Jacob-Bazin source: The Victorian Web       The nonce word earth horn denotes an instrument said to have been used by the English forces at the Battle of the Standard (1138), on Cowton Moor near Northallerton in […]

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red herring

    MEANING   a clue or piece of information which is, or is intended to be, misleading or distracting     ORIGIN   A red herring is a dried smoked herring, which is turned red by the smoke. The figurative usage of the term originally referred to the former practice of laying trails for […]

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white elephant

white elephant

  a royal white elephant (Thai painting)       MEANING   A white elephant is a burdensome or costly objective, enterprise, or possession, especially one that appears magnificent.     ORIGIN   FALSE ORIGIN   According to a widespread theory, this figurative sense of white elephant refers to the story that the kings of Siam (now Thailand) would make […]

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cock-a-hoop

cock-a-hoop

  cock-throwing in The Four Stages of Cruelty: First Stage of Cruelty (1751) by William Hogarth (1697-1764) - image: Tate Galleries       MEANING   extremely and obviously pleased, especially about an achievement     ORIGIN: UNKNOWN   This adjective is from the 16th-century phrase to set cock a hoop, to set (the) cock on (the) hoop, […]

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to warm the cockles of one’s heart

to warm the cockles of one’s heart

  Parsons bottled pickled shellfish       MEANING   to give one a comforting feeling of contentment     ORIGIN: UNKNOWN   The noun cockle now denotes specifically an edible burrowing bivalve mollusc with a strong ribbed shell common on sandy coasts (Genus Cardium, family Cardiidae). But it was formerly applied more vaguely to […]

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Derby

Derby

  recruitment poster for the Derby scheme       The Derby is an annual flat race for three-year-old horses, founded in 1780 by the twelfth Earl of Derby (1752-1834), and run on Epsom Downs, in Surrey, England. The result of the first Derby, which took place on Thursday 4th May, was published in the London […]

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cockpit

cockpit

  THE BOREL HYDROPLANE. One of the first hydro-monoplanes adopted by the Government. Driven by an 80 h.p. Gnome engine mounted in front of the fuselage on double bearings. Floats sprung at the rear on rubber shock absorbers. Chassis built of streamlined steel tubes. Pilot and passenger in separate cockpits arranged tandem fashion. A small […]

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