Tag Archives: dogs
to sell a pup

to sell a pup

  photograph: Dog-Names-And-More.com     Frequently used in the passive, the phrase to sell someone a pup means to swindle someone, especially by selling something of little worth on its supposed prospective value. And to buy a pup means to be swindled. The expression is first recorded in 1901. That year, several newspapers gave its […]

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Shock-headed Peter

Shock-headed Peter

  In The English Struwwelpeter and the Birth of International Copyright (The Library, journal of the Bibliographical Society, 2013), Jane Brown and Gregory Jones explain that the ancient free city of Frankfurt am Main saw in 1845 the first appearance of Dr Heinrich Hoffmann¹’s Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder², a German children’s Christmas picture book. One of the […]

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beyond the pale

beyond the pale

    MEANING   outside the limits of social convention     ORIGIN   The primary meanings of the noun pale are a wooden stake or post used with others to form a fence and a wooden fence made of stakes driven into the ground. This word appeared in the late 14th century and is […]

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caterpillar

    MEANING   the larva of a butterfly or moth     ORIGIN   First attested in the mid-15th century, the noun caterpillar is probably from catepeluse and variants, which were the Anglo-Norman forms of the Old French feminine noun chatepelose and variants, meaning literally hairy she-cat. In his textbook Lesclarcissement de la langue […]

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one’s pigeon

  The development of trading contacts between Britain and China led to the emergence in 19th-century China of a trading language consisting of basic English and some Chinese grammatical forms. In this hybrid language, pidgin was derived from, and originally meant, business. (The phonetic development was perhaps via an intermediate form /pidginiss/ (with replacement of […]

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to rain cats and dogs (2)

    According to B. A. Phythian in A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), the phrase to rain cats and dogs, or at least the metaphor, was in use for a long period before it was first recorded, and was originally referring to a disaster. He explains that a clue as to the origin of this phrase is to be found in […]

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to rain cats and dogs (1)

to rain cats and dogs (1)

    MEANING   to rain very hard     ORIGIN   Although B. A. Phythian made an interesting hypothesis as to the origin of this phrase in A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), to rain cats and dogs is probably based on a cat-and-dog fight as a metaphor for a storm or […]

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surly

    MEANING   bad-tempered and unfriendly     ORIGIN   This word was originally a variant of the obsolete and rare adjective sirly, composed of the noun sir and the suffix -ly, and meaning sir-like, lordly, hence haughty, imperious (it is similar to German herrisch, imperious, from Herr, lord, sir). The word sirly is first recorded, used […]

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hot dog

hot dog

  Greenwich Village Fair – “Hot Dogs” – June 1917 photograph: Library of Congress       In US slang, the noun dog has been used to denote sausage meat and a sausage since the late 19th century. It is first recorded in Frank Leslie’s Comic Almanac for the year 1873, published in New York: […]

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the dog’s letter

the dog’s letter

  Daß Narrenschyff ad Narragoniam by Sebastian Brant       The dog’s letter is a name for the letter R, from its resemblance in sound to the snarl of a dog. It was so named after Latin canina litera, used by the Roman poet Persius (Aulus Persius Flaccus – 34-62) in his first Satire: […]

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