Tag Archives: Italy
to get the bird

to get the bird

  detail from the frontispiece to The Life of an Actor (1825), by Pierce Egan     The phrase to get, or to give, the bird means to receive, or to show, derision, to be dismissed, or to dismiss. It originated in theatrical slang and referred to the ‘big bird’, that is, the goose, which […]

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to sweat like a pig

to sweat like a pig

  photograph: Fairhope Farm     The phrase to sweat like a pig means to sweat profusely. The earliest instance that I have found is from The Morning Post (London) of 10th November 1824; during a boxing match “between Ned Turner and Peace Inglis for one hundred pounds a-side”, one Shelton, who waited on Turner, […]

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a cat may look at a king

a cat may look at a king

  Executioner argues with King about cutting off Cheshire Cat’s head – illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914) for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) The executioner’s argument was, that you couldn’t cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from.     The phrase a cat may look at a king […]

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gianduja

gianduja

  Gianduja e Giandujotto (1986), by the Italian artist Walther Jervolino (1944-2012)     The Italian noun gianduia (improperly gianduja) appeared in the 19th century to denote a soft confection made with chocolate and ground hazelnuts, first produced in Turin, the capital of Piedmont, a region in north-western Italy, in the foothills of the Alps. […]

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pastiche – pastis

pastiche – pastis

  pasticcio di carne – photograph: www.cucinafilm.it     The noun pastis designates an aniseed-flavoured aperitif, while pastiche, or pasticcio, denotes a work of art that imitates the style of another artist or period and a work of art that mixes styles, materials, etc. Unlikely as it may seem, these words are doublets, or etymological twins: although […]

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milliner

milliner

  A Morning Ramble, or The Milliners Shop (1782) image: The British Museum     A milliner is a person (generally a woman) who makes or sells women’s hats. But a Milliner was originally a native or inhabitant of Milan, a city in northern Italy. The word is first recorded in this sense in an Act of Parliament in 1449: That every Venician, Italian, Januey, […]

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passéist

passéist

  list of the Manifestes du Mouvement futuriste, from L’Antitradition futuriste: Manifeste-synthèse (29th June 1913) — image : Bibliothèque nationale de France/gallica.bnf.fr     MEANING   – (adjective): having an excessive regard for the traditions and values of the past – (noun): a person, especially a writer or artist, with excessive regard for the traditions and […]

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trumpery

    MEANINGS   – attractive articles of little value or use – practices or beliefs that are superficially or visually appealing but have little real value or worth     ORIGIN   The noun trumpery, which appeared in the mid-15th century, is from French tromperie, meaning deception, trickery. This was one of the original […]

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contredanse

    MEANING   a courtly French version of the English country dance, originating in the 18th century and similar to the quadrille     ORIGIN   The English noun contredanse, or contredance, was borrowed from French contredanse, itself an alteration of English country dance. The English country dance was introduced into France during the […]

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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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