Tag Archives: Charles Dickens
to eat humble pie

to eat humble pie

  Samuel Pepys (1666) by John Hayls Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) – English diarist and naval administrator. He is particularly remembered for his Diary (1660-9), which describes events such as the Great Plague and the Fire of London.     The phrase to eat humble pie means to make a humble apology and accept humiliation.   […]

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Yorkshire tyke

Yorkshire tyke

  The Trial of the Notorious Highwayman Richard Turpin Thomas Kyll’s pamphlet, published 10 days after Turpin’s execution on 7th April 1739, provides an eye-witness account of the trial.       Yorkshire tyke, or simply tyke, is used as a nickname for a person from Yorkshire.   The noun tyke is from Old Norse tík, […]

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the last straw

the last straw

  Thomas Hobbes       The last (or final) straw is a further difficulty or annoyance, typically minor in itself but coming on top of a series of difficulties, that makes a situation unbearable. This is from the phrase the last straw that breaks the (laden) camel’s back, a reference to the carrying of […]

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dunce

dunce

  A female student in a dunce’s cap and a man on the steps of the Tome Scientific Building around 1890 Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania Photographer: Charles Francis Himes       A dunce is a person who is slow at learning; a stupid person.   Dating back to the early 16th century, the word […]

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hottering mad

hottering mad

  Stephen Blackpool recovered from the Old Hell Shaft illustration for Dickens’s Hard Times – Fred Walker – 1868 – wood engraving     Charles Dickens’s novel Hard Times (1854) is set in the fictitious Northern English mill-town of Coketown. In chapter eleven, Stephen Blackpool, a power-loom weaver, speaks to Mr Bounderby, the mill owner, […]

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like a house on fire

like a house on fire

    The Great Fire of London (September 1666) oil painting by anonymous artist – circa 1670       Originally, like a house on fire, or afire, meant as fast as a house would burn. This simile made better sense in the old days when houses were of wooden construction and had thatched roofs.   […]

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happy as a sandboy

happy as a sandboy

  The phrase (as) happy (or jolly) as a sandboy means extremely happy or carefree. A sandboy was a boy hawking sand for sale. It seems that the earliest use of the word is The Rider and Sand-boy: a Tale, the title of a poem written by a certain Mr Meyler and published in Harvest-Home in 1805: A poor shoeless urchin, half-starv’d and sun-tann’d, Went by the Inn […]

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pantechnicon

pantechnicon

  A Dictionary of Science, Literature, & Art – 1842 – by W. T. Brande           A pantechnicon is a large van, especially one used for furniture removals.     Pantechnicon is an invented word, from two Greek ones: the first syllable pan- means all, and tekhnikon belonging to the arts. […]

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forlorn hope

forlorn hope

    MEANING   a persistent or desperate hope that is unlikely to be fulfilled, a faint hope, a ‘hope against hope’     ORIGIN   On the face of it, this is a curious expression, because the adjective forlorn does not normally mean faint but miserable, lonely, forsaken or sad. The current sense of forlorn hope derives either from wordplay or from a misunderstanding of […]

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from pillar to post

from pillar to post

    The phrase from pillar to post means: from one party or place of appeal or resource to another; hither and thither; to and fro; implying repulse and harassment. Oxford English Dictionary - 1909   It was originally from post to pillar, and is first recorded around 1420: And when he thedyr came, Humylyté hym took A token and bad […]

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