Tag Archives: discriminations

to send to Coventry

    MEANING   to ostracise or ignore     ORIGIN   Coventry is a city in the west Midlands of England, historically in Warwickshire. In Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1870 edition), Ebenezer Cobham Brewer (1810-97) gave the following origin of the phrase: This is a military term, according to Messrs. Chambers (“Cyclopædia”): The […]

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blanket

    The noun blanket is from Old Northern French and Anglo-Norman forms such as blankete and blanket, composed of blanc, white, and the diminutive suffix -ette, and meaning white woollen material, blanket cloth, and blanket. (The Modern French word for blanket is couverture, meaning literally covering, from the verb couvrir, to cover. The term […]

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Froggy

  And I saw three vncleane spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, & out of the mouth of the beast, & out of the mouth of the false prophet. Book of Revelation, 16:13 (King James Version - 1611)     MEANING   (informal and derogatory): a French person     ORIGIN […]

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sheeple

sheeple

  The Old Hokum Bucket (1949), by Ernest Rogers photograph: Etsy       MEANING   people likened to sheep in being docile, foolish, or impressionable     ORIGIN   A blend of sheep and people, sheeple seems to have first been used by W. R. Anderson in his column Round About Radio, in The […]

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French leave

French leave

  Sandra Dallas     MEANING   an unauthorised or unannounced absence or departure     ORIGIN   The earliest (and most curious) instance of the expression that I could find is in the anonymous novel Benedicta (1741). The heroine is about to get married: Mrs Butler, who on this extraordinary occasion, had taken French leave of her […]

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pilgrim

pilgrim

  Canterbury Cathedral     The Latin adjective pereger/-gris, composed of per, through, and ager/agri, a field, a land, literally meant who has gone through lands, hence who is on a journey, away from home. From this adjective was derived the adverb peregri, peregre, meaning abroad, and to, or from, foreign parts. This in turn […]

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to sit below the salt

to sit below the salt

  The Salt-cellars are of singular form and rich workmanship. The most noticeable is—the Golden Salt-cellar of State, which is of pure gold, richly adorned with jewels, and grotesque figures in chased work. Its form is castellated : and the receptacles for the salt are formed by the removal of the tops of the turrets. […]

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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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‘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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to sell down the river

to sell down the river

  USA slave sale poster – photograph: Commonwealth Online       MEANING   to betray someone, especially so as to benefit oneself     ORIGIN   The phrase to sell down the river originates in the history of American slavery: the river was the Mississippi and down implied the transfer of slaves from north […]

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