Tag Archives: food
old chestnut

old chestnut

  photograph: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos/Wikimedia Commons       MEANING   a joke, story, or subject that has become tedious and uninteresting through constant repetition     ORIGIN   In old chestnut, the adjective old is simply an intensifier of the noun. The figurative use of chestnut seems to have its origin in US theatrical slang. In Notes […]

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canopy

canopy

  Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-99) by Caravaggio (1571-1610)       PRIMARY MEANING   an ornamental cloth covering hung or held up over something, especially a throne or bed     ORIGIN   Via French canapé and Medieval Latin canopeum, English canopy is from classical Latin conopeum, conopium, denoting a net of fine gauze, used […]

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Cheddar cheese

Cheddar cheese

  Cheddar is a village near the Mendip Hills in Somerset.     According to Andrew Dalby in Cheese: A Global History (2009): English cheeses were already admired in Europe in the fifteenth century, but not under local names. These become prominent about a hundred years later. Banbury and Suffolk 1562, Shropshire and Cheshire about […]

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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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to eat someone’s salt

to eat someone’s salt

  Fluellen intimidating Pistol (circa 1850), by Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901)       Salt has strong symbolic connotations. The phrase the salt of the earth, which now denotes a person or group of people regarded as the finest of their kind, comes the gospel of Matthew, 5:13, where Jesus described his disciples and meant […]

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cordon bleu

cordon bleu

  cross and blue ribbon of the order of the Holy Ghost (18th century) photograph: Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais       The French noun cordon denotes a ribbon, usually worn scarf-wise, as part of the insignia of a knightly order. The cordon bleu (the blue ribbon) was the sky-blue ribbon worn by […]

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to go to pot

to go to pot

  woodcut from Warhaftige Historia und beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der Wilden Nacketen, Grimmigen Menschfresser-Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen (True Story and Description of a Country of Wild, Naked, Grim, Man-eating People in the New World, America - 1557) by the German soldier and explorer Hans Staden (circa 1525-79)       MEANING   to deteriorate through neglect […]

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red herring

    MEANING   a clue or piece of information which is, or is intended to be, misleading or distracting     ORIGIN   A red herring is a dried smoked herring, which is turned red by the smoke. The figurative usage of the term originally referred to the former practice of laying trails for […]

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fleshpots

fleshpots

  Jonathan Swift by or after Charles Jervas (1709-10) image: National Portrait Gallery         MEANING   places providing luxurious or hedonistic living     ORIGIN   Literally, a fleshpot is a pot in which flesh, i.e. meat, is boiled to eat. The source is biblical. In the Book of Exodus, 16:3, when […]

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to warm the cockles of one’s heart

to warm the cockles of one’s heart

  Parsons bottled pickled shellfish       MEANING   to give one a comforting feeling of contentment     ORIGIN: UNKNOWN   The noun cockle now denotes specifically an edible burrowing bivalve mollusc with a strong ribbed shell common on sandy coasts (Genus Cardium, family Cardiidae). But it was formerly applied more vaguely to […]

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