Tag Archives: books-magazines-newspapers
‘pleb’

‘pleb’

  MEANING   informal and derogatory: an ordinary person, especially one from the lower social classes     ORIGIN   The noun pleb, which appeared in the late 18th century, is a shortened form of plebeian. The plural plebs, meaning the common people, dates back to the late 16th century. It is from Latin plebs/plebis, […]

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Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights

  The remote, abandoned farm of Top Withens (or Top Withins) is often thought of as the inspiration for the Wuthering Heights farmhouse. — Source and photograph: The Reader’s Guide to Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”       The obsolete Scottish and dialectal English verb to whither is from an assumed Old Norse verb hviðra, […]

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in someone’s good books – blacklist

in someone’s good books – blacklist

  The Black Book of the Exchequer photograph: The National Archives/History of government         The earliest black books were record books or ledgers usually relating to finance or administration, and the adjective seems to have had no other significance than to indicate the colour of the binding. For example, in a letter […]

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picayune

picayune

  front page of The Daily Picayune, 21st September 1909, New Orleans, after a hurricane – photograph: nola.com       Originally, in southern United States, especially Louisiana, a picayune was a Spanish half-real, and in later use a 5-cent piece or other coin of little value. In his diary, on 4th November 1804, the […]

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Grub Street

Grub Street

  Grub Street – John Rocque’s 1746 map of London     MEANING   The noun Grub Street denotes the world or class of literary hacks. As an adjective, also spelt Grubstreet, it means having the nature of literary hack-work.     ORIGIN   In A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Samuel Johnson gave […]

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toot sweet

toot sweet

    The adverb toot sweet means straight away, immediately. It represents humorously, after toot and sweet, an anglicised pronunciation of French tout de suite, of same sense.   Before the First World War, it was only used in representations of French speech. One of its earliest occurrences is in Sharpe’s London Magazine: a journal of entertainment and […]

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deadline

deadline

  The prison-pen at Millen This pen was built of large logs driven in the ground, with sentry posts on the top, at short intervals. [...] Just inside of the palisades was a light rail fence, which marked the “dead-line”, or a boundary beyond which no prisoner was allowed to pass, under penalty of death […]

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dogsbody

dogsbody

            A dogsbody is a person who carries out menial tasks for others.   Originally, dog’s body was contemptuous naval slang for a pease-pudding boiled in a cloth.   The author of Life in an Indiaman, in Chambers’s Papers for the People (1851), explained: Peas-pudding (alias dog’s body) is often […]

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