Tag Archives: cats
no room to swing a cat

no room to swing a cat

  The theatre of punishment on board a Royal Navy warship around 1800 A man has been lashed to a grating (a hatch cover open for ventilation) to be flogged with the infamous cat-o’-nine- tails. The marines are drawn up on the quarterdeck with loaded muskets to ensure the punishment is carried out. Another man […]

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tit for tat

tit for tat

  original illustration for The Spider and the Flie (1556), by John Heywood     The phrase tit for tat means an equivalent given in return or retaliation. The expression seems to be a variation of the obsolete and more comprehensible tip for tap, in which both tip and tap meant a light but distinct blow, stroke, hit. The phrase therefore meant blow for blow. The words tip and tap first […]

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Tom, Gib & Tib

Tom, Gib & Tib

      TOM   Thomas is derived via Greek from the Aramaic name תָּאוֹמָא (Ta’oma’) which meant twin.  Tom, a familiar shortening of Thomas, has often been used as a generic name for any male representative of the ‘common’ people. For example, Tom and Tib was used like Jack and Jill to mean lad […]

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On proverbs

  In Notes & Queries (2d series, vol. 12, July-December 1861), A. De Morgan wrote, under the title Raining cats and dogs [also read here]: The derivation kata doksa will not do for the whole phrase, which, when I was a boy, was “cats and dogs, and pitchforks with their points downwards”. The phrase seems to be […]

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cheese – fromage

cheese – fromage

  “Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux-cent quarante-six variétés de fromage ?” (“How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”) attributed to Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), French general and statesman, in Les mots du général de Gaulle (1962), by Ernest Mignon photograph: fémivin.com   The word cheese is from Old English cēse, cȳse, […]

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