Tag Archives: Geoffrey Chaucer
Lucifer

Lucifer

  Boethius teaching his students from a 1385 Italian manuscript of The Consolation of Philosophy     The Latin adjective lucifer means light-bringing. It is composed of luc-/lux, meaning light, and -fer, bearing. The element -fer is from the verb ferre, to bear, carry, as in the English verb to transfer, literally to bear across. […]

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to wet one’s whistle

to wet one’s whistle

  How Are You Going To Wet Your Whistle (When the whole darn world goes dry) a Prohibition song by Francis Byrne, Frank McIntyre & Percy Wenrich (1919) source: The Authentic History Center       Since medieval times, the word whistle has been jocular for the mouth or throat as used in speaking or […]

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by rote

by rote

  At school in the year 2000 From a series of futuristic pictures, by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists, first produced for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris     Dating back to the early 14th century, the word rote means mechanical or habitual repetition of something to be learned.   The phrase by rote […]

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clue – clew

    The noun clue appeared as a variant spelling of clew, of same pronunciation. Not frequent until the 17th century, clue has become the prevailing form of the word in the sense of a fact or idea that serves to reveal something or solve a problem. The word is from Old English cliwen, cleowen, meaning a ball formed by winding yarn, twine or thread (it […]

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to egg on

to egg on

  acacia (credit: Stan Shebs)       To egg someone on is to encourage them to do something foolish or risky.   This verb has nothing to do with eggs. It is from Old Norse eggja, to incite, itself related to the English noun edge and to the German noun Ecke, corner.   These […]

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Galloglossia

Galloglossia

  John Bull taking a Luncheon: – or – British Cooks, cramming Old Grumble-Gizzard, with Bonne-Chère hand-coloured etching by James Gillray – published on 24th October 1798 This print was published just after Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile. He is shown in the forefront of British admirals and naval heroes, serving up […]

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fresh as a daisy

fresh as a daisy

        The word daisy is from Old English dæges ēage, meaning day’s eye. This name alludes to the fact that the flower opens in the morning and closes at night, as the human eye does. Perhaps its petals, which close over its bright centre at the end of the day, were also thought to resemble human eyelashes. […]

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piping hot

piping hot

    Piping Hot - Glasgow International Piping Festival. (The name has changed to Piping Live.) It is a pun as, here, piping means playing (a tune) on bagpipes.     The adjective piping hot is used to refer to very hot food or liquid, usually when served. It referred originally to the hissing of viands in the frying pan, the verb pipe meaning, in this case, to make a whistling […]

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at sixes and sevens

at sixes and sevens

Gilbert and Sullivan: All at Sixes and Sevens – image: Thimothy Knapman       The phrase at sixes and sevens means in a state of total confusion or disarray. Based on the language of dicing, the phrase was originally to set (all) on six and seven. It denoted the hazard of one’s whole fortune, or carelessness as to the consequences of one’s actions. […]

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Lollard

Lollard

    John Wycliffe   John Wycliffe, or Wyclif, (1330?-84) was an English religious reformer. He criticized the wealth and power of the Church and upheld the Bible as the sole guide for doctrine. Wycliffe instituted the first English translation of the complete Bible. His teachings, regarded as precursors of the Reformation, were disseminated by itinerant preachers, contemptibly called Lollards. The Lollards believed that […]

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