Tag Archives: Horace Walpole
Mamamouchi

Mamamouchi

  frontispiece and title page from a 1688 edition of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme     In his comédie-ballet Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (literally The Bourgeois Gentleman – 1670), the French playwright and actor Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin – 1622-73) invented the word Mamamouchi, an imaginary Turkish title that Monsieur Jourdain is gulled into thinking the son of the Grand Turk confers upon him. (Jourdain is […]

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jewel – bijou

jewel – bijou

  Horace Walpole (circa 1756-57), by Sir Joshua Reynolds image: National Portrait Gallery       The noun jewel, which dates back to the late 13th century, is from Old French and Anglo-Norman forms such as juel, jeuiel, jouel, joyel, etc. The plural forms were juaux, jeuiauls, jouaux, joyaulx, etc. This is why the modern […]

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to blackball

to blackball

  Mary Delany (née Granville) – 1782 – by John Opie photograph: National Portrait Gallery         MEANINGS   – To reject a candidate applying to become a member of a club or other society by means of a secret ballot. – To exclude someone from society, a profession, etc.; to ostracise.   […]

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serendipity

serendipity

  Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Horace Walpole – circa 1756-7       MEANING   The noun serendipity denotes the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.     ORIGIN   The word was coined by the English writer and politician Horace Walpole (1717-97). In a letter to his […]

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boulevard

boulevard

  Paris, around 1895 boulevard de la Madeleine with l’église de la Madeleine on the left       English borrowed the French noun boulevard in the second half of the 18th century; writing from Paris on 30th August 1769, the English author and politician Horace Walpole (1717-97) told John Chute: My dear old woman […]

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whipping boy

whipping boy

  Las Meninas (The young ladies-in-waiting) – 1656 – Diego Velázquez         MEANING   A whipping boy is a person who is blamed or punished for the faults or incompetence of others. This meaning is first recorded in Essays written in the Intervals of Business (1841) by the public servant and writer […]

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warts and all

warts and all

  Peter Lely – Portrait of Oliver Cromwell       In 1988, during the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, Vice-President George H. W. Bush reached into history for a ringing battle cry: As Abraham Lincoln said, here I stand—‘warts and all.’   But Bush was not quoting Abraham Lincoln. Here I stand is attributed to […]

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nabob

nabob

      Asaf-ud-dowlah, a Mogul nawab, listening to musicians in his court – 1812       A nabob is a person of conspicuous wealth or high status.   The word is from Hindi nawwāb, nabāb, viceroy, governor, itself from Arabic nuwwāb, plural of na’ib, meaning lieutenant, representative, replacement.   This Arabic na’ib is […]

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budget

budget

  bulga – from Dictionnaire illustré latin-français (1934), by Félix Gaffiot       MEANING   The following definition of budget is from the New English Dictionary (i.e. Oxford English Dictionary – 1888 edition): A statement of the probable revenue and expenditure for the ensuing year, with financial proposals founded thereon, annually submitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on behalf of the Ministry, […]

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‘flu’

‘flu’

  The English word flu is an abbreviation of influenza, an Italian word from Medieval Latin influentia, from which the English word influence is also derived. Besides denoting a contagious disease, Italian influenza has the various senses of English influence. But originally, both English influence and Italian influenza had the general sense of an influx, flowing matter. They […]

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