Tag Archives: Italy
excuse my French

excuse my French

  advertisement from The Mid-Sussex Times of 27th March 1923: THE PICTURE THEATRE, HAYWARDS HEATH. “PARDON MY FRENCH” AND “A CERTAIN RICH MAN.” Do you enjoy a good laugh? If you do go and see “Pardon my French” at the Heath Theatre to-night or on Wednesday. It is a pert pot-pourri of pep and romance. […]

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disaster

disaster

  A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611), by Randle Cotgrave     The noun disaster, via French désastre, is from Italian disastro. This Italian word was thus defined by John Florio in his Italian-English dictionary A Worlde of Wordes (1598): disastre, mischance, ill luck. And the definition of French astre given by Randle […]

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to play to the gallery

to play to the gallery

  Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) is a 1945 French film directed by Marcel Carné. It is set among the Parisian theatre scene of the 1820s and 30s.     Via Old French, the word gallery is from the Medieval Latin of Italy galeria, an alteration of galilaea, meaning a monastery’s church porch — hence English galilee, denoting a porch […]

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marionette

marionette

  The Entombment of Christ (1610) by Sisto Badalocchio     MEANINGS   A marionette is a puppet worked by strings, and, figuratively, a person who is easily manipulated or controlled.     ORIGIN   This word dates from the mid-17th century. It is from the French feminine noun marionnette (with a double -n-), probably composed […]

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slave

slave

  Roman mosaic from Dougga, Tunisia (third century AD) The two slaves carrying wine jars wear typical slave clothing and an amulet against the evil eye on a necklace. The slave boy to the left carries water and towels, and the one on the right a bough and a basket of flowers. photograph: Pascal Radigue […]

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domino

domino

  The Ridotto in Venice – 1750s by the Venetian painter Pietro Longhi (circa 1701-85)     A domino is a kind of loose cloak, apparently of Venetian origin, chiefly worn at masquerades, with a small mask covering the upper part of the face, by persons not personating a character. The word, first recorded in […]

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bier & barrow

bier & barrow

  Smithfield Market, London’s oldest wholesale market: a porter drags a barrow full of meat away from the market     A bier is a movable frame on which a coffin or a corpse is placed before burial or cremation or on which they are carried to the grave. First attested in the 9th century, […]

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shambles

shambles

    Old York: the Shambles illustration by Charles G. Harper for his book The Great North Road, The Old Mail Road to Scotland, York to Edinburgh (1901) (The pavements are raised either side of the cobbled street to form a channel where the butchers would wash away the offal and blood.)     A […]

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no room to swing a cat

no room to swing a cat

  The theatre of punishment on board a Royal Navy warship around 1800 A man has been lashed to a grating (a hatch cover open for ventilation) to be flogged with the infamous cat-o’-nine- tails. The marines are drawn up on the quarterdeck with loaded muskets to ensure the punishment is carried out. Another man […]

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to pay through the nose

to pay through the nose

  credit: Mike and Shelley’s French Adventures         MEANING   to pay excessively, to be charged exorbitantly     PROBABLE ORIGIN   The expression to pay through the nose is first recorded in Piazza universale di proverbi Italiani, or, A common place of Italian proverbs and proverbial phrases digested in alphabetical order […]

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